Kathmandu University (KU) has a good name in Nepal and a respectable place in Kavre district. Many people here take it as a landmark establishment and a destination for higher education. Besides, it has also become a place of employment for local people with and without a degree. It has initiated modernization and educational awareness in its neighboring towns, Banepa, Dhulikhel and Panauti. The increase of houses and subsequent occupation of them by students and staffs, and the burgeoning hotel business around the university prove that KU has also paved the way to economic development of the local people. There has been a meteoric rise in the price of land around the university. Two factors have obviously contributed to this development: gradual conversion of the age-old backward village into a town because of people coming closer to the university for business, and the interest of KU staffs to buy land for permanent settlement.
Nevertheless, there still may be people who complain of intrusion by KU upon their land and their way of living. But this complaint is relatively meaningless because KU has been harmless to the local community. KU is a boon to the place and its role in uplifting the quality of life and adding reputation to the whole locality is rarely denied in the circle of the judicious.
KU is also regarded inaccessible to the majority. There are some who shrug off its name simply with a remark that it is the place for the rich only. People without access to it generalize that it has hardly done anything for the community. Some have the opinion that a university in the heart of the district should do more than only invite students and employees. There is a demand from the intellectual circle for a greater role from the university and its staff. The fact that KU staffs have not much been able to be a part of the vicinity is one reason why many people are not familiar with its contributions. Majority of KU staffs and students commute from Kathmandu daily and hardly have any contact with the local community. The minority that live in or around the university premises are also in touch with the minority only. Very few of them are recognized in the area for their participation in local organizations.
Arguments exist that the establishment of such an institution itself is a service to the place. But it is felt that KU should enter into the society and work for a change. Some people in the surrounding areas still live their lives in the way they did before KU came there, though their expectations have grown higher because of the business, rentals and the price of land. Some people here are still in the same sanitary conditions as they were twenty years ago. More awareness about the culture of hard work and changes is to be disseminated in the area continuously.
It may be worthwhile for KU to plan for the type of society it aims to have for the future. Opinions exist that a university does not necessarily change for the society, but the society does, and should, change for it. Moreover, a society is born long before an academic institution but it begins to mature only after the institution comes into existence. There is no denial that both do, and should, grow mutually. The old generation locals may not expect more than the regular flow of customers in their shops and tenants in their houses, and one or two chances of job, irrespective of the level of qualification they have and the salary they get. But the new generations, who have grown with the university, are naturally seeing a prospect here either for education or for employment, or for both. KU has facilitated some locals with scholarships or jobs and this has taken it to the society to a certain extent. But more than taking it as only a destination for job or education, the local people should grow with KU to the extent of being able to recognize it as a source of positive change in the way they think and live.
KU can add several more services to the local society. The first important task would be to volunteer short-term trainings and workshops for teachers of local schools and colleges. This would take KU to the educated circle easily, and this circle would take it to the society. Not that KU has superior human resources to those of other institutes around, but it is capable of giving better to the society, and does have good resources with it. Second task could be to offer vocational training in the fields like basic computer application and mechanical workshop. Another option would be to give short term training on communication skills in English language. Local youths are KU’s potential employees and it would be better to enhance their competence level in advance. Dhulikhel, Banepa and Panauti have high prospects for tourism and hotel industries. Training on languages could help prepare human resources in these fields also. Academic or vocational courses on tourism and hotel management would be even more contributory to Kavre’s hospitality industry. KU does have capacity and resources to accomplish these tasks. The society waits to see KU giving attention to these or other even more worthwhile directions.