Nepal’s geographical location presents many challenges which she cannot face on her own. Although sandwiched between two powerful neighbors, their conflicting ideologies and their unique national interests only puts Nepal in the middle of their bilateral struggle for regional hegemony. Nepal only becomes a pawn in the bigger scheme of world dominance ambitions for China and India in the 21st century. Being a pawn does not benefit this country nor the people of Nepal. Nepal cannot continuously play catch up and assume that this country’s survival is guaranteed.
Nepal currently has an estimated 4 million youths living abroad. Some have gone abroad as students, while others have migrated through more harsher means in hopes of better opportunities.
A recent report by the institution of International Education and the US Department of State bureau of Education and Cultural affairs showed an increase of 20% Nepali students enrolled in higher education in the United States; this now ranks Nepal as 12th among the top 25 countries for both graduate and under-graduate students abroad. Of the total Nepali students living abroad, 53.9% are undergraduate students while 34.4% are graduate students. The western doctrine has already swept this country with full force. Support for United States, European nations and Australia, and admiration for its values, both moral and educational, are highly regarded and sought after. Now, through youths who have received education and invaluable experience abroad, this country can be put in the path of long term development and prosperity.
Every year, thousands of students forgo their education due to financial restrictions and begin focusing on work in order to repay the loans accumulated from their migration. Doing so makes them an illegal resident of the respected country and places an enormous burden of constant fear of deportation and criminal punishment. Although their knowledge and hard work may not be as appreciated abroad, it can be well utilized in Nepal, given the right conditions exists.
The inertia of progress must be pushed forth by the young generation of Nepalis living abroad. Return migrants can be the drivers of development for this country. Majority of the elder generations abroad are well settled and are comfortable in foreign lands. They may participate in political discussions on facebook regularly, they may even come and visit their families ever so often, however they will not take the radical, fearless steps necessary for the dramatic change of this country. Rightfully, they will choose security and comfort. If the youth also follow these footsteps, the door will obviously lead to the same fate. Instead, the only way to insure that the future generations can build a life in their own country rather than migrating elsewhere in a rate of almost 1000 people per day is by providing jobs and opportunities, through growth within.
The young generations are the ones that can harness this potential. Their professional experiences are more valuable in Nepal than the west. Nepal is in desperate need of well educated and experienced engineers, doctors, educators, specialists, philosophers, economists, visionaries, entrepreneur, leaders and hard workers.
Nepali government, along with international organizations need to cooperate and create an environment where Nepali students studying abroad have an incentive to return. Rather than working in foreign lands with unfamiliar cultures and languages, these migrants must contribute to their own nation where they will be surrounded by friends and families.
Nepali government must understand that these students have invested countless hours, taken thousands of dollars in loans and have worked hours in possibly unimaginable conditions to receive higher education in some of the most renowned universities around the world. Rightfully, an atmosphere for returning graduates to thrive must exist before any expectations can be held. Knowledge, ideas, enthusiasm, must be brought back along with their hard earned expensive education. This will be far more valuable to this country than any amount of remittance.
Merely attracting a few graduates will only produce a very limited and doubtful results. The immediate goal should not only be to encourage migrants to return, but doing so while creating an environment of knowledge and experience reproduction. Nepal must actively improve it’s educational infrastructure; the countless public and private collages in this country must tailor their courses and educational methods to the suggestions put forth by the return migrant’s community. In addition, return migrants must actively play a roll as teachers and mentors.
Social work and Humanitarian works are very fulfilling and it uplifts the soul. However, uplifted soul doesn’t put food in a hungry stomach, nor does it repay debts and loans. Nepalese society and its government must recognize the monetary investments that went into producing the diaspora of Nepali graduates and students in foreign countries and plan monetary incentives accordingly.
It is imperative to establish a Return Migrant community right away in order to brain storm, plan, research and implement various objectives in coordination with other organizations. Quantitative data must be gathered and quantitative growth objectives must be set so that progress can be measured in areas where progress is seen, and alternatives can be implemented in areas where progress may stagnate or not exist. Several different methods of measuring and record keeping processes must be implemented, not only to insure that this agenda is benefiting the society but also to identify road bumps in order to make proper adjustments.
Productive round table discussions are crucial so that ideas and concerns can be properly addressed. Discussions such as these can not only be used to address concerns, but also to formulate creative solutions. Proper planning, leadership and a healthy debate through round table discussions are a sure-fire method to insure progress and consensus.
The similar benefits that Nepali students receive from studying abroad, can also be provided here to foreign students. Nepal is in an exceptional position to provide the west with a distinctive cultural knowledge and experience about the east. The westerners are increasingly becoming attracted to eastern values and philosophies. The east is seen as the place to pursue individuality and spiritual freedom. Rather than attempting to attract students in subjects that Nepal cannot compete in with the west, Nepal should turn it’s focus on attracting those who want to immerse themselves in eastern values. Return migrants have the potential to act as a bridge between two cultures in such cases.
Every International student would prefer to live and work in their motherland, given the right conditions exists. Not only would these students bring back their knowledge from the quality education they receive in the west, they would also be on the front line in promoting western values and cultural experiences. This was already the case in a smaller scale in Nepal during the Panchyat regime when “back to village” campaign (Afno Gau Affai banau) was initiated. Now it is time for “back to Nepal” campaign (Afno Desh Affai banau).
Forever waiting for hand outs and assistance with hopes of development from another country is an unfeasible hope. Unless another nation has their own national interest agendas, which aligns with ours, selfless foreign assistance is a hoax. Nepal needs to stop wasting so much attention on its neighbors. Instead, Nepal need to focus internally. The only way for Nepal to prosper and achieve it’s national interest is alongside return migrants.
The right leadership and vision, led by the Nepali government in cooperation with the International Student communities, NGOs, INGOs and NRNs can repave this country’s path . This will involve finding unique solutions to Nepal’s equally unique problems. Initially, this objective must be based on long term goal of growth alongside creation of jobs and opportunities rather than short term monetary benefit. Nepal’s internal conflicts and political instability may end sooner if the quality education for the youth, opportunities for the graduates, space for artists and the sky to soar for visionaries existed within.
Mr. Jagrit Poudel is pursuing his masters in International Relations and Diplomacy in Tribhuvan University