As Nepal goes through a grand process of social and cultural transformation, education plays a vital role in this process. Education does not always mean degree-oriented or formal education where a teacher imparts course-based knowledge through a structured syllabus, time frame, limitation and a stereotyped style of presenting information to the students inside the four walls called ‘the class.’ It is a phenomenon that has not changed much over a long time.
In fact, many of our teachers have not done much better than the millennia old ‘gurukul’ system. Education back then used to be very practical where the pupil had to learn nearly all skills in theory and practice depending on the expertise of the ‘guru’. The guru was a parent in the practical sense of the term. He or she had full and complete responsibility to groom the young child and make him ‘fit’ for the kind of job his family, society or the community wanted him or her to discharge - nothing more nothing less. A set curricula or a standard was there to follow through so that the young personality when mature could handle all situations, challenges and hardships in the life experiences ahead.
Against this backdrop what can we see today? The socialisation process has changed, its effect has not been value-oriented like before; there is not much focus on such things in the family and its network these days. And, when the socialisation process either at home or outside in other domains such as the school and the large community does not function effectively in the life of the growing child, social and cultural values are not recreated, not imparted fully or ignored with focus outside the main need.
The new generation, a product of another, different mode of socialisation is gradually alienated from the core value of one’s culture and mixes and messes up in a ‘global, materially dominated’ culture and civilisation.
The story does not end there. It goes on further when a large segment of our youth population is desperate to go to the root of the material culture as a new, devoted and devout pilgrim of his choice. Speaking in fiscal term, the volume of cash these ‘pilgrims’ carry to the new world is staggering, to say the least. This is the fee they pay not just for the university degree courses and the logistics to survive, it is also paid ‘in partial fulfilment of the formal-informal learning of a new, material, global culture’ at the cost of their own back home.
The brunt of this inadequacy seen in the culture learning process at home or the main domain lies not only in the learner, it rests on the shoulders of the socialising agents. The middle class family in Nepal is a unit trapped between the choices of the new and the old values to be imparted to the youngsters. The writer remembers a situation when a Newar boy vehemently protested against his upanayana or ‘kaitapuja’ ceremony together with his cousin. The priest and family had to listen to him and come to terms with the boy’s plea that his long hair be spared from shaving or even trimming.
In another instance, a few Bajracharya young boys, while going through the same puja in accordance with their tradition in the large family yard, happened to overhear a western song played in the neighbourhood and began to twist their hands, waist and back instead of listening to the priest’s command to take part in the activities demanded by the book.
The late Prof. Dhanabajra Bajracharya, one of the guardians of the boys, once related this story to this writer and said that he and his brothers had to jump to the boys and serve them a fitting reward: few spanks right on their active backs in front of the eyes of the family and relatives.
Bajracharya was obviously worried that the new generation was slowly distancing itself from the traditional faiths, customs and practices that create and sustain the ethos on the new generation. There are plenty of such examples available in society now. The fact is: Cultures are losing their holds and reins, not to talk about the core values described in the classics and practised at home and in the larger setting, the community.
From the lesson learnt through these few examples and life experiences filled with a host of rituals and faiths is that proper care is not taken in the process of socialisation. The family has several members, a network of relations, a host of rites and rituals and languages that have several functions, including symbolic significance of the highest order along with different roles and functions laid for each members of the family. The growing child must know this all, practise them all and internalise the given roles and responsibilities as he/she grows.
UNESCO has been working effectively to create awareness among the people and cultures across the globe about the rights and responsibilities of the minorities focusing on the cultures that need special attention to boost their capacity and sustainability. Member nations have been engaged in such activities after the UNESCO Convention held in October 2003 in Paris resolved to promote the intangible cultural heritage (ICH) globally. Since this time, member nations are doing their best involving government and non-government agencies in this important task of documenting ICH, holding seminars to educate the people, more specifically the youths, minorities and academicians.
UNESCO/Kathmandu, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, has been holding capacity-building workshops involving experts and participants from minority communities where culture promotion and preservation have been an urgent task. In the process of inventorying the ICH, people expressed their concern about the gradually decreasing interest of the younger generation in matters related to traditional knowledge and culture. This is a matter of grave concern and needs serious attention to improve this situation.
Finally, the new generation is the carrier of culture as a legacy of the older generation of creators, experts and givers who have worked hard to give culture a shape, a productive form and personality to a person or a given group of human beings living in a society with values, standards and norms. What is required of the young generation is to give years to the old timers and tune their store of knowledge to the time they live in and keep the best practices alive as long as they work as ‘the best’.