Note: Subhash spoke at the ‘Youth’s Voice for the Nation’ virtual event about ‘caste-based discrimination and untouchablity in Nepal’ on 24th September. This is part one of three parts on important aspects from that discourse.
Many people, even activists, ask: Uneducated people practice caste-based discrimination and untouchability because of their lack of education and awareness, but why do even well-educated people continue to practice this inhuman tradition, sometimes even more harshly than uneducated people?
Perhaps because the present educational system is mainly designed and focused on producing obedient laborers, not better human beings with love and conscience. From an early age in school, we are told to become better than others. And those who perform better are praised and rewarded leaving the rest in shame and humiliation. We are even punished physically if we do not perform better than others. Some of us end up carrying this school trauma throughout our lives.
In this way schools train and prepare pupils to discriminate, and teach them to aspire to become better than others, enjoying the privilege to the exclusion of others. The idea of high caste and low caste- that some are better and more valuable than others- might just be a continuation of what happens in schools in a different form.
On the other hand, children mostly learn from what they witness, observe, and experience, not what they are told. In schools as well as in family and community they witness, observe, and experience the caste-based discrimination and untouchability as normal and necessary. Instead of learning how to cultivate love and conscience, children are trained how and why to discriminate! Most of the teachers are from the high caste and clearly educated. But being educated does not necessarily mean that someone has learned to value, practice, and promote equal dignity and respect for all. Maybe this is why school teachers have been unable to eradicate discrimination in schools, let alone society, for generations.