Destroying old structures to build a New Nepal

We know the earthquake has destroyed our lives. It has destroyed temples, schools and houses. We have lost a lot of lives but we know the earthquake has also brought all (hopefully) Nepali people together.

But amidst this chaos and devastation, we have a perfect opportunity to destroy further.

Just like the earthquake, we should and must destroy the structures our societies are built upon: discrimination (based on religion, caste, gender, ethnicity, culture, color and status), superstition, prejudice and injustice. Out of all these, two things come to my mind.

It was the second day after the earthquake. Every one in our neighbourhood was outside the houses praying and hoping that the quake won’t come back. We were taking shelter under a large tent and started preparing relief-khaja (cheura, noodles and dalmot) for all of us. Suddenly, I heard one respectful elderly woman say to a girl, “nani, timi 2 din ko bhako chau, ali parai basera khau”. You are on the second day of your menstruation, you stay a bit far from us and eat. I couldn’t believe my ears. While everyone’s trying to make sense of what’s happening, this elderly lady was still bothered by the presence of a menstruating girl. Even on the face of terror, some people forget humanity and stick with their own ill-logics.

I heard a friend of my sharing his frustrations. He was in Bhaktapur for relief distributions and some people in a Bahun community told them that they won’t take any relief food touched by dalits. It doesn’t make any sense at first, but some people are ready to die in the name of their tradition and culture. These are proud people. Arrogant people.

Without destroying these cherished structures, we can’t imagine a new nation.

The second structure is our education system.

The news says over 20,000 schools have been damaged completely or partially. One million students have been said to be effected. If there’s something to be optimistic about this dismal situation, it is about the opportunity to build new schools, new curriculum and new education policies.

And as we rebuild the schools, we also need to think about the real purpose of schools and real objectives of education. Our schools reflect factory model (remember, students are referred as ‘products’). Our curriculum promotes one shot three-hour final exams. Our education promotes obedience. These concepts are obsolete. And these need to be dumped into the Bagmati.

Let me clarify why schools are exploitative by prodding on one omnipresent factor in schools – the fear factor. Schools teach students to be fearful. Fear the teacher. Fear the principal. Fear the exam. Fear the society. Fear the future. And eventually, students fear of being oneself. They fear of being different. They fear of speaking out.

Fear is the primary weapon our schools wield against students to make them uniform and complaint. Our schools destroy children’s natural inquisitiveness with years of one-right-answer mentality and leave them without spontaneous creativity. And for this travesty to end, the system that demands obedience has to go first. And we need to replace it with one that promotes creativity, critical thinking and independence. We can build our new education system on the foundations of reality, empathy and social justice.

The earthquake has destroyed our houses and ruined our lives (for now), but we also need to destroy these old structures that has been crippling us. I believe it’s never late to change and this is the perfect time to change. It’s time to build a new hope. A new country where there’s no discrimination. A new country where children grow to be fearless. A new country where everyone loves everyone.

  • Umes Shrestha

Teacher and Co-founder of #PresentationStuffs



Thank you for publishing, Umes. I like the provocative style! About the school situation: the factory model, the fear factor, the emphasis on obedience, all that is present in (nearly all) European schools as well. And after the so-called Bologna process, even higher education is now more aligned to schooling, with enforced presence and one-shot (or few-shot) examinations.

I talked about al this with Sunoj from Karkhana lately, and we agreed that Nepal has an advantage over Europe: here, engaged citizens can quite easily collaborate with existing schools to improve their practice. In Europe (example in question: Germany), participation of third parties in school is really limited. Of course, the question is still how to fund such citizen action. Input welcome :slight_smile:

1 Like

I have so much on this…

I could go on for days on end.

I am not going to start writing that book here and now though. If you want to chat about it though I will take some time to for it. I’ve seen a bunch of western education/management from the inside and would be happy to compare notes. Ideally with an interested party listening in. If you are interested, I’ve started organizing my thoughts on innovation in this thread a little. Education is of course very important in this context.

The small and large

Here is another view on things that has quite some implication which go beyond the points you nicely addressed in the article.

To my mind it would be a good idea to look at relative deprivation theory in the context of organizing education in Nepal (and elsewhere). This talk is more focused on the individual (in the US), but it nicely sums up a couple of points that allow quite powerful arguments to be made with regard to the system’s structure. E.g. avoid elite institutions and focus on networking in width - based on the topics at hand. If needed I can provide more examples and perspective on this of course.

Positive Destruction

I remember you sharing the particular incident during the workshop as well and was hoping you would share it here. So thank you @Umes for putting these into words. Someone I know who was very active in relief work during the earthquake shared an experience where after few hours of the earthquake, she went to different camps distributing sanitary pads. Women would first hesitate and then she would approach them asking if they needed any sanitary pads, which of course they did, you know! And then she just went on to distribute it wherever she went.

I think it is difficult to destroy old traditional structures that put up so many social constraints but efforts like these and yours even, can start the “demolition work”.

1 Like

Dual use

One funny thing is if you look into the relatively dedicated “prepper” scene you will find sanitary pads everywhere! Because they are such a basic item that has tons of different uses in: hygiene, medical applications, even tinder, among lots of miscellaneous and sometimes very inventive uses ranging from pure necessity to comfort.

Hey guys, thank you for sharing your feedback !