Death of my dreams

Published On: August 10, 2018 07:05 AM NPT By: Republica

Our politicians and bureaucrats are adept at closing doors. No wonder almost 70,000 of the best and brightest took “no objection” letter last year and another 20,000+ went to India to study. Why should we wonder about this when even people like me at our age are going abroad because foreign countries value our knowledge, experience, commitment and dedication more than our country.

Through this [Facebook] posting, I wish to request our PM, our ministers, political leaders, bureaucrats to “open the doors” to our young enterprising citizens as well as to people like me so that we can stay behind to serve our country. Please tell us what we can do, rather than telling us what we cannot do, and provide us a fast-track process to do it, rather than slamming the doors in our faces, and telling us we cannot live and achieve our dreams in our country, and that we have no right to contribute our expertise to make our country a great country.

The huge brain drain the country is suffering is more disastrous than the precious water flowing to India and to the ocean. We need visionary leaders, who will put the country’s interests first above family, friends’ and party’s interests, not popular leaders, who are only interested in populist policies to win the next election by any means, as the previous TU VC, Kedar Mathema so rightly stated in one of his interactions with the political leaders. I and many patriots want visionary leaders, who will implement the visionary, long-term policies the country so badly needs. PM Oli can be such a leader if he so wishes, provided he can free himself from the vested interests, surrounding him. This is a golden opportunity for him to be “statesman” par excellence.

I am leaving behind in Nepal my dream of creating a reputed and prestigious private Sagarmatha University! I have asked myself many times whether this dream will just remain a dream. Will I take this dream to my burning pyre? I have tried many times to open many doors this last 3 years after spending 18+ years abroad, without success. It is, therefore, with great sadness that I am writing this message on the first day out of my beloved country as I proceed to Cambodia to take up a new assignment as the Team Leader of an ADB financed upper secondary education project.

Cambodia is my second home where over 18+ years, I have successfully completed 6 education/TVET projects as the Team Leader. The Cambodian government has valued my contribution and has awarded me with two prestigious medals and is welcoming me back. I am returning to Cambodia, after 3 years to live my dream!

Our leaders need to create an encouraging and enabling environment for us to return to Nepal, or the brain drain will continue to increase in future forcing even more young people to study abroad and even more older people like me to work abroad.

Please share this posting with as many family members, relatives, friends so that this message reaches the PM, all the ministers, the leaders of all parties and all the senior bureaucrats so that they address this very serious “brain drain” issue if they really mean what they say about making Nepal a developed and prosperous country.

(Mathe is former dean of Institute of Engineering, Tribhuvan University)

Mathe vents frustration with Nepal

After Mathe’s post on Facebook went viral, Republica caught up with him to find out more about the issue.

How long did the process of forwarding the idea of a private university take you here in Nepal?
After teaching and studying for 12 years, I took up the challenging task of Campus Chief of Pulchowk Campus, IOE, after which I took up the very exciting task as  founding Principal of St Xavier’s College from 1988 to 1991. Subsequently, I had the honor of being Dean of the Institute of Engineering from 1992 to 1995. In 1997, I, as the founding chairman, along with like-minded friends, started Xavier Academy under the aegis of Nepal Education Foundation, with the aim of establishing a university. Economic factors compelled me to take up 12 months of international consulting work in Cambodia. These 12 months stretched to 18 years. From 2010 onward, a team of like-minded individuals started working to set up a private university, which we proposed to name Sagarmatha University. We submitted the application about five years ago. After I returned to Nepal in 2015, we tried to push this idea forward as well as to start new academic programs  under public-private partnership modality. I persevered for three years but to no avail. I have lost track how many doors I knocked on. 

What were the major hurdles in advancing the idea of a private university?
The main constraint was the myopic vision and a very controlled environment, in which it was easier to say “no” rather than “yes”. Education, by its very definition, is supposed to be enlightening and encouraging, but in Nepal education policies are formulated to limit freedom of thinking and healthy debate. We want to offer innovative programs so that our best and brightest will stay back in Nepal. But the universities are so politically vitiated that no one is ready to take bold decisions for the betterment of education and  the betterment of the country. Our political leaders, policy makers and educationists do not seem to care about the flight of our precious human capital. Education needs to be free from political meddling. Political appointments need to stop. Appointments should be made  merit-based on transparent and strict selection criteria.

What is your next plan?
My dream of establishing Sagarmatha University is still alive. I consider myself an institution builder, having established St Xavier’s College and Xavier Academy. I have contributed to educational development not only in Nepal but also in several South East Asian and East African countries. I hope that  the 10,000+ students I have taught or have been in contact with over the past 44 years, as well as my many friends and well-wishers, not to mention my relatives, will support me in my noble cause of providing excellent and innovative educational programs in the country.

Is your idea of Sagarmatha University dead? 
I will continue to work to establish Sagarmatha University, which will be as good as if not better than some of the reputed regional universities. I hope this will happen one day. That is why I have not taken up a long-term assignment in Cambodia, where my professional services are very much sought. I will continue to return to Nepal hoping that the doors will open for me and for others like me.

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