After a hiatus of 14 years, students studying at the Tribhuvan University (TU)’s constituent campuses, including the Central Campus at Kirtipur, and other affiliated ones nationwide have elected their representatives to the Free Students Union (FSU). There is a practice of conducting FSU polls every two years. But such polls have not taken place since 2017 when voting had occurred only in about three dozen constituent campuses and nearly 100 community colleges. Incidents of violence between competing student groups had led to the disruption of elections in the remaining campuses. However, FSU elections remained mostly peaceful this year. According to the election monitoring and coordination committee at TU, elections were concluded in a total of 212 campuses and voter turnout stood at about 60 per cent. In some colleges, FSU leadership was elected unopposed. Poll results have been pouring in from colleges located in different parts of the nation. The All Nepal National Free Students' Union (ANNFSU), Nepal Student Union (NSU) and the All Nepal National Independent Students Union (ANNISU-Revolutionary) have won FSU elections in most campuses.
ANNFSU is close to the CPN-UML while NSU is a student wing of the Nepali Congress and ANNISU-Revolutionary is linked to the CPN-Maoist Centre. FSU election results are often regarded as mini polls because they reflect the position of the political parties. However, elections could not be held in Tri-Chandra Multiple Campus, Ratna Rajya Laxmi Campus, Nepal Commerce Campus, Patan Multiple Campus, Amrit Science Campus, the Campus of International Languages and Koteshwar Multiple Campus on Sunday. These are some of the oldest institutions having a higher number of students in the Kathmandu Valley. TU has decided to hold FSU polling in 16 colleges on March 22. As the country's oldest and largest university, TU has 62 constituent campuses and 1,062 affiliated institutions that impart education to tens of thousands of students in a wide range of subjects. There are as many as 40 different departments under this university.
On January 6 this year, the TU Executive Council had taken a decision to hold FSU elections on March 19. With the announcement of that decision, student unions belonging to various political parties had initiated campaigns to win over voters. Student unions act as an active pressure group. They are supposed to work for the welfare of the students and help create a congenial teaching-learning environment in universities and colleges. They put pressure on the concerned university or college management to get their demands fulfilled. Being a young and energetic lot, students have undoubtedly contributed much to making different democratic uprisings in the country a success. Many appear to have utilised their student life as an opportunity for them to develop leadership quality in them. Some of the contemporary political leaders like Sher Bahadur Deuba, Gagan Thapa, Bishwo Prakash Sharma, Yogesh Bhattarai, among others, have risen through student politics.
But FSUs seem to have been deviated from their responsibilities over the years. What is worrying is that they are often seen padlocking the university offices and getting involved in vandalism and violent activities that disrupt the smooth functioning of the academic calendar. They need to carry out constructive activities. It is the responsibility of student unions to concentrate their attention on upgrading the quality of education and creating opportunities and facilities for students. Student leaders need to promote ideological debates and discussions and instil a culture of harmony and tolerance in the young minds. They should also help to control political anomalies that surface time and again and contribute to developing a desired academic and political culture.