World Interfaith Harmony Week: Sushant from Nepal on why education makes a nation

World Interfaith Harmony Week takes place over the first week of February to provide a platform for interfaith groups and other groups of goodwill to show the world what a powerful movement they are. This week allows for these groups to become aware of each other and to strengthen the movement by building ties and avoiding duplicating each other’s efforts. The initiative is based on the commandments Love of God and Love of the Neighbour and this has been extended to include “Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour” to apply to anyone – regardless of religion. To mark this occasion, the Global Faiths Coalition for Education, in collaboration with Beydaar Society and Echo Change, will publish a series called Young Perspectives: Articles on Faith & Global Education – written by young advocates for education of different faiths.

The second article in this series is by Sushant Rijal, a 27-year-old Hindu and Global Youth Ambassador (GYA) for A World at School. Sushant is also a Fellow of Teach For Nepal teaching in the rural village of Lalitpur. The pictures below are of Sushant showing his support for education and teaching in a Nepalese classroom.

I am a Hindu. I care about education. Education is the foundation of a nation. If your foundation is feeble, you can’t ensure a bright future for your country.

An education is a seed you sow in the brain of your student. If the seed is filled with pain, hate, biases and terror then you’ll get a difficult country to live in.

I wanted my the whole world to be a better place to live, so I got interested in education and started working as a teacher. Teaching has been a marginalised job but, for me, it is the most important one. The teachers are the engineers of a nation, who teach our future doctors, engineers, politicians, bureaucrats and innovators.

As a Hindu, I see education as a core part of my religion. We had a culture of books with many texts written in different topics, not only religion. There was school culture called “Gurukul”, where students would live with their gurus to learn ancient scriptures or war skills.

Education was given a priority in Hinduism, so the educated people were given title of Brahmins and respected in society for their knowledge. So, as a Hindu, I was raised with a respect for education. But I also knew there were many children who had been deprived of education and my country was listed among the least developed nations.

Later I enrolled myself as a student of Spanish and had to deliver a presentation on the topic “Al-Andalus: A threshhold to renaissance Europe”. I was particularly enthused by the book culture of the then world super-power Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), where even a labourer was said to be investing his last penny on either sanitation or on a book.

Al-Andalus had the biggest library of books in the world and education flourished, making it the most developed territory of its time. When the books were translated into European languages, it helped to bring about a huge change that became known as the Rebirth of Europe.

Books and education had the power of change – but we are losing it because we are diverting away from education. So, joining the dots, I came to the conclusion that my county is listed as a developing nation because we are deprived of education.

I thought I would work to bring about change through education.

The world is complex – global warming and other environmental issues are challenging our survival and the whole world seems to be dividing on the basis of religion, caste or ethnicity. We have lost tolerance towards each other and hence diverted away from the real issue of our survival.

I think there has to be a huge investment in education to solve these problems and re-establish a tolerant society. This can only help children to prepare and be ready to meet the challenges to come. An education must have the objective of preparing a responsible and aware gobal citizen. 

My experience working as a Fellow of Teach For Nepal has made me acquainted with the lives of my students. They need to do laborious job before and after school and some even walk long distances (up to two hours) to reach school. Most of the time they need to leave home empty-bellied because the food hasn’t be cooked early in the morning. Or they might manage eating leftovers from the previous night.

They reach school with their own stories and pain. When they arrive, they are welcomed with boring lectures which have no room for creativity becaue of the rigid education system and corporal punishments.

Many of them leave school at an early age. Many students are married young by their parents. Some leave their education because they have to earn bread for their family. Sometimes they are abused on their way to school so that daily journey becomes a nightmare.

They are our upcoming generation and if they aren’t prepared to handle tomorrow our country might move into a retrogressive path.

In this context, international collaboration is important to overcome barriers in education. We face problems in our work – but to know people around the globe have similar experiences and are struggling to overcome them gives us strength. The sharing of solutions gives us new ideas about solving the problems we face.

Interfaith work and collaboration can help to motivate everyone to work on similar issues in different parts of the world.

Read more blogs about World Interfaith Harmony Week on our Global Faiths Coalition for Education page.