We as a nation I believe, have come to the conclusion that a democratic system is the best political system there is. It might not be perfect, but what we have is the best.
In fact, it is a matter of pride for us that unlike some of the other third world countries, we have been a democracy since independence.
We might lament the state of politics in our country, and hate the smarmy guts of our politicians, but rarely do we hear anyone make a case against the principles of democracy. The inherent belief in the equality of man and in the ownership of his destiny embodied in the concept of citizenship, is undisputed.
Democracy in short, is one of our most prized social value.
However, when it comes to instilling this value in our young, we have no mechanism of socialization. For most of us, democracy is limited to the right to vote on election day. What it means to be a citizen and what are one’s rights and duties as a citizen, are rarely taught to us in school.
Granted most schools have a civics class, but that education is limited to theory and is never actually practiced. Besides, what we are taught has very little real-life application. Moreover, the attention we give to civics education is a matter of shame. We give more importance to fine arts and physical education than we do to civics education in school.
And it seems once we leave school and enter institutions of higher education, we apparently have learned everything necessary there is to learn about citizenship, because the study of politics at the college level is relegated to the department of political science, where it is taught exactly like that, as a science; as a field of academic study, having nothing to do with one’s real-life circumstances. You are taught of democracy as if it was some sort of political experiment the Greeks did thousands of years ago and have nothing to do with us because we’ve evolved to a higher level of being where principles of democracy don’t apply.
If we want our nation to progress, we need better citizens; we need politically conscious and educated citizens who can make informed rational decisions in their own interest and in the interest of their nation. We have to make the education of politics an integral part of our educational system.
Only colleges and universities can act as the training grounds for the young political man. And for a hands-on training, we need a functioning democratic system on a smaller scale in the form of a students’ union.
Now they are many who argue against having a students’ union based on the damaging effect it has had on student-life on campus in the past. There have been instances of violence and disorder resulting in the disruption of the normal functioning of a university.
Even though that is true, the solution to the problem is not in abolishing the whole system of student democracy. Neither is it to wait for a “conducive” atmosphere to reinstate it.
When you say that, you imply that democracy is only good under certain “conducive” conditions, and if we have chaos and disorder, an autocratic rule is justified. That’s exactly the justification a military junta gives when they take over civilian governments in a coup d’etat.
Nowhere does it say that disorder is inherent to democracy. And if our practice of democracy is resulting in chaos and disorder than there is something wrong in the way we practice it.
So what we need is to reform our system of student democracy till we have order and discipline.
And if we cannot learn to do that at the college level, then we should have no expectations of reforming the political system at the national level.
Let’s not sell ourselves too short. We should have faith in ourselves. Faith in our capability to rationally come up with a system that would be fair and just. And above all, faith in our potential to change ourselves into something better and nobler.