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