Student union adriftThe Nepali Congress attended the Council of the Socialist International in Portugal in 2013 as a full member, where Beatriz Talegón, then general secretary of its youth wing International Union of Socialist Youth, urged world leaders to opt for a democratic process while electing leaders of their youth organisations, and warned that the other way brings negative consequences to the future of young people, the youth movement and the party itself.
The Nepali Congress attended the Council of the Socialist International in Portugal in 2013 as a full member, where Beatriz Talegón, then general secretary of its youth wing International Union of Socialist Youth, urged world leaders to opt for a democratic process while electing leaders of their youth organisations, and warned that the other way brings negative consequences to the future of young people, the youth movement and the party itself.
Three years after the council, the Nepali Congress chose to paralyse its youth wing Nepal Tarun Dal by appointing only four persons each from the intra-party factions to its leadership. Without repeating this kind of error, the Nepali Congress must create space to include activists from diverse political dimensions, academic values and leadership strengths in the new committee of the Nepal Student Union which has not been able to hold fresh elections.
Degree of sycophancy
If the custom of appointing leaders by prioritising camps and the degree of sycophancy continues, an opportunity to increase the shrinking trust of youths in the party will be missed. The Nepali Congress needs to understand the attributes and aspirations that its future leaders must possess to build a vibrant and inclusive party institution and inspire young people to stand as a firm opposition outside Parliament to question the wrongdoings of the government. We cannot dream of building a strong party by keeping a weak and non-competitive student union as its sister wing.
Nepal’s student movement has not been able to transform itself to act according to the aspirations of today’s young generation. Student unions have lost public support and have been questioned for their misconduct. Student departures to foreign universities have turned into a flood, and the number of labour migrants to the Gulf and Malaysia has jumped. It is the duty of the Nepal Student Union to inspire them to return to Nepal and put pressure on the government to create infrastructure, institutions and opportunities for youths to work and prosper. But it has lost its moral authority to speak for the rights of youths and students.
There are many things the new leadership of the Nepal Student Union needs to do. It should push the government to formulate rental policies so that students can find affordable and quality rented accommodation. Taking the initiative to end political appointments in academic institutions and universities is a must. It should press the government to arrange global competition for positions such as vice-chancellor and end state colonialism in universities. The Nepal Student Union, as a member of the International Union of Socialist Youth, has not been able to give its position in international emergencies and political events.
Teacher salaries in Nepal are among the lowest in the world. We cannot think of creating stronger schools and universities by keeping our teachers’ welfare scheme extremely low. The Nepal Student Union should ask the government for an adequate budget and necessary policy arrangements to make the teaching profession competitive and attractive. The Centre for Research at Tribhuvan University received a Rs6.8 million grant for the fiscal year 2018-19 which is 0.0003 percent of its total budget. Compare this with the research grant allocated by Tokyo University, Japan which is 34.8 percent of its
total budget. As per Nepal’s University Grant Commission’s report for the academic year 2015-16, it spent 0.065 percent of the budget allocated to it by the government on similar headings.
The Nepal Student Union has never discussed the appalling status of our universities at its meetings, nor has its parent party. How can a political party think of building a prosperous future for the country when the priority given to research and innovation is so low? The new Nepal Student Union leadership must fight for and demand adequate facilities for research and development at our academic and public institutions.
It is the Nepal Student Union’s responsibility to act as a bridge between the Nepali Congress and the knowledge and expertise that Nepali students and graduates in universities in Nepal and outside cultivate. It helps to construct a firm policy foundation for the party and even expand the party’s reach. The Supreme Court has ordered the government to ensure voting rights for all Nepalis living abroad. Adding a few million votes to the Nepali Congress’ bank in another election is not easy without having the Nepal Student Union work for it in all dimensions. Choosing youths who can help the union pursue that goal is now determined by the wisdom of the Nepali Congress leadership. The party must understand that its youth and student organisations are not always their ‘spokesperson’, but rather an ever-present opposition.
Kafle is an architect and an activist of the Nepali Congress party.