........................................................................with words, with issues!!!

Jun 27, 2013

Propagating the Mandelian trait

While the whole world has become one in wishing Nelson Mandela a speedy recovery, many know deep within that the time has finally come to let him have his final walk to freedom. Madiba, as he is lovingly called, is said to be under life support and is expected, sadly, to be declared dead anytime soon. Hope people won’t be foolish enough to label a death at 94 ‘an untimely death’!

As far as I remember, we had one chapter in our Grade 9 English book which carried a newspaper report “Mandela walks a free man”. It was stunning for us to read that a mortal can go to the lengths of being ready to get behind the bars for an astounding 27 years for the sake of his damn convictions! Then, we had not the slightest of idea about what values those convictions and principles held for the leaders like Mandela. Nonetheless, that chapter instilled in us a sense of respect to this legend. The same year perhaps, we had one short biography of him in our Nepali textbook. This used to be a recurring question in our exams, so we had no way but to mug it up. Hence grew our acquaintance with him a little further. And as a third and last event in the same year itself, I happened to read his autobiography ‘Long Walk to Freedom’. It was in fact recommended and given to me to read by my Social Studies teacher Narayan Sharma sir. I am not sure how much could I understand and grasp from that phenomenal book at that tender age, but what I am sure of is that it left the indelible mark in my heart. 

Of course, I had heard of him since my early childhood, but it was long before I could understand him in detail. For many years, I thought him merely as a valiant fighter against the racist Whites in South Africa. Merely, because I had seen many a freedom fighter back at home putting up a disappointingly dismal performance once ascended to power. During their struggle days against the despotic monarchs, our now-tainted leaders too were no less than Mandela. Their unflinching courage and determination were unquestionable. But no sooner did they assume the reins of power than their true colors revealed. In the same vein, I had revered Mandela for his personal sacrifice, but had little idea about how he fared as a ruler in post-apartheid South Africa. Now that I’ve got the idea, I can proudly say: Mandela is a hero for all the struggles he did to dismantle the racial segregation, but even more heroic is his courageous leadership that created the ‘rainbow nation’ during his stint as president. Though many leaders, here and elsewhere, seem like Mandela during struggles, they fail the crucial acid test as rulers. This is where the path starts to diverge from the real Mandela.

Mandela adopted a reconciliatory approach to his erstwhile perpetrators and formed the government in collaboration with them. His magnanimity averted the imminent civil war and rather created an environment where the blacks and whites could increasingly intermingle in the society with increased level of trust. That he chose not to seek vengeance but forgive the ones who kept him confined to the dark cells for three decades was the measure of his greatness. How he managed to address the crimes committed under apartheid through the formation of the 'Truth and reconciliation commission' is a lesson to be learned by post-conflict nations like Nepal. Add to that his unwillingness to run for a second term as president. He paved the path for the younger generation and showed this rare trait of a politician: unselfishness. He proved through his deeds, he was no power-hunger. Plus, even as an octogenarian, he didn’t afford to become a mute spectator to the ghastly social ills grappling the world. Through the Nelson Mandela Foundation, he was engaging himself in activism like in combating HIV/AIDS which is endemic in the African continent.

The current generation of African National Congress (ANC) leaders is facing the wrath of its people for all the mesh S. Africa is in today. Not only the ANC leaders, but leaders across the globe would do well to remember Mandela at this point and carry on his legacy by trying at least to emulate the Mandelian traits.
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Jun 7, 2013


A born teacher!

Last few weeks, I watched scores of Dr. Najeeb’s hours-long Youtube videos activating the ‘nonstop’ mode. And believe me- while I can barely stand a 2 hour movie, I didn’t feel one iota of boredom on watching Dr. Najeeb for 3-4 hours straight in a day. Now having attended his numerous lectures on topics ranging from Basic sciences to Internal medicine, I too have the same feeling going on as thousands of other med-students: If only I had him in my medical school!

Right now, I am throwned back to the flood of remembrances of my schooldays. I remember- when I was younger (young, I still am), there were very few options for students like me when it came to studying. Wake up, go to the school, load your brain with all those exam-friendly facts and figures, return home all tired and fatigued , get drowsy while writing tomorrow’s homework (of course, out of fear of Mr. Strict’s sticks and slaps) and finally manage to catch some Zs only to wake up tomorrow and get trapped in the same vicious cycle. When I now talk to my peers from diverse locations, they too share the same story. Hostellers have even greater plights to share. Anyway, schools were the only centres of ‘learning’ and kids were supposed to extract as much as they could from their teachers. Back then, my place boasted of having one public library, which was the only other place where I could hover to quench my thirst. I now feel pity on the way I and my colleagues were raised and educated in our schools when I hear from my sisters in The Netherlands about how liberal the schools are over there and how scientific is their education system (I know, I know there’s no room for gripe anyway, for how dare I compare Nepal with The Netherlands!).

Life is way easier these days. They invented this equipment called internet (not that it came into being just recently, but this was not as global back then). Unsatisfied, they marched on to invent another stuff named Youtube. And most of all, He had already invented Dr. Najeeb. I discovered it rather late. Again, it’s not that I was devoid of the likes of Dr. Najeeb in my schooldays (how can I forget my favourite Madhav sir who was a master in leading the horses to water!!). However, speaks my experience- we live in a teacher-desert, the only form of oasis being Dr. Najeeb. And thanks to these inventions named internet and Youtube, we’ve been able to attend his classes no matter where he lectures from. And yes, without any fear of sticks and slaps.

Recently, I had come across an article that cited a research suggesting a correlation between teacher enthusiasm and student’s intrinsic motivation to learn. This ‘teacher enthusiasm’ factor is what turns out to be the most pivotal of all that elevates an ordinary teacher to that of Dr. Najeeb’s stature. While teaching any subject matter, no matter how hard or easy it is, Dr. Najeeb becomes so engrossed in his world of teaching that it is hard for his students not to reciprocate. He has this magic wand that simplifies the toughest of topics into an easily-understandable form. He takes ample time, but leaves no stones unturned in making concepts crystal-clear to his students. Parrot-learning has no place in his teachings. Each and every facts and figures must be supported by logic. In fact, his motto speaks for itself: Lasting Knowledge from Clear Concepts. And of course, plumbing the depths of topics remains his signature style. Even in this multimedia age, he prefers to draw diagrams by hand and uses markers to illustrate his points. Here again, speaks my experience, Dr. Najeeb’s white-board is way superior to the Microsoft Powerpoints of our modern-day professors. He equally knows to make his classes all the more absorbing by adding the humour factor. I have not observed the riot of laughter as that in Dr. Conrad Fischer’s (another talented medical educator) class, but yes Dr. Najeeb appears too concerned to make sure that the class ends before it starts losing its crucial vitality. He thus comes up with witty remarks at times helping spice up the class. Of course, Dr. Najeeb sir, there is no fun in telling that (in your trademark style, sir) you have all the qualities of a master educator and we have benefitted a lot from your teachings. You are a hunger-producing machine; a hunger to learn and explore. At a time when we are in a serious short supply of quality medical teachers, your nexus with Youtube has come as a real boon for us.

Do you think it needs big intelligence to guess (again in your trademark style, sir) that a lot many med-students have fallen in love with you? And no doubt, so have I. Looking forward to enjoying scores of other “So what really happens??”, “Let me tell you one thing!!”, “This is what every doctor knows, but only a very good doctor knows…”. For now, the class is dismissed!!
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