Bangladesh; Students in politics

Teachers and students of the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EEE) at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) bring out a silent procession on the campus demanding punishment of Abrar Fahad’s killers. Photo: Palash
  • F R Chowdhury 5 November 2019

We have seen various stages of students’ politics. In primary school, the class teacher appointed a monitor to represent the class. The class monitor or captain, in fact, was a go between teacher and students to facilitate academic activities. In high school we have seen the teacher conducting a poll and appointing the most popular student as the class captain. The role of class captain expanded little more to include sports, games and other activities. In college we found the students electing their union or association. Their activities extended further to include cultural activities and debate. Debate gave the students an opportunity to analyse any given subject and present his/ her own thoughts. It also taught tolerance to others’ views and comments. Finally at university we have seen students’ union that would contribute to the development of all skills that would make a student an ideal and responsible citizen. Apart from academic studies the students engage themselves in various other activities – sports and games, cultural activities, debates and study tours. The last days of student life, the students’ union and the university authority work together hand-in-hand to make it memorable.

At university level we have seen students to sometime become very vocal on certain issues. They relate mostly to higher/ better academic/ educational aspirations such as for lowering fees, better library or IT facilities etc. In extremely rare cases the students came out openly with the public in general as in 1952 language movement and 1971 liberation movement. Other than that, pursue of knowledge has been the primary goal of the students. The future of the country depends on the knowledge acquired by the students and application of all the skill, knowledge and virtues.

As a seafarer I visited many countries. As a civil servant in Bangladesh as well as in the UK, I visited many more countries, some of which as an IMO consultant. I have visited remote places like DPRK (North Korea), Malawi and Pacific island of Tonga. I have witnessed similar trend that I explained above. Every country gives top priority to education because they know for sure that future of the country lies on good education.

There is one exception – the recent trend in students’ politics in Bangladesh. I am tired of hearing about Bangladesh being a role model in almost everything. Perhaps the politicians also want to call it for a role model. In Bangladesh the corrupt politicians bribe the students to dance in their tune. The students are derailed. They engage themselves in immoral activities – extortion of money in every possible way. They even kill each other. Gone is the primary goal of education. It appears that knowledge is no more required. What we require is our skill of immoral activities. We know what we are going to get in future. The future is dark and bleak. That is why thousands are desperate to go abroad. They die at sea, in containers, trailers and tanker-trucks but still they try to get away from the country – desperate effort to escape to a better future.

It is natural that all parents want their children to get the best education. It is no more there in Bangladesh. Those who can afford are sending their children abroad. Initially they went after first degree. Then it came down to HSC level. Now they are going soon after finishing SSC level. Those receiving good education abroad are not returning home. This is a brain drain. Back home, we are stuck with those who have serving their political masters instead of acquiring any education. What a vicious situation.

Chatra League, Chatra Union, Chatra Dal, Shibir – they are all equally bad. Bangladesh could be a better place without them. They produced notorious thugs involved with all types of crime. Their leaders are ready to do anything to please their political masters. The corrupt politicians and so-called students’ leaders scratch each other’s back. When the politicians do not need them anymore, they (politicians) simply dump them (students’ leaders) as if they had nothing to do with it. I never heard of any such students’ leader becoming a famous barrister or doctor, chartered accountant or a scientist. They follow their political masters until the end of the student life. They destroy the dreams of their poor parents who send them for higher education. They become what we call in Bengali “mastan” to spend best part of their lives in jails.

Recently Mr Rashed Khan Menon justified students’ politics in Bangladesh by saying –“if they do not learn it as a student, where shall we find our future political leaders”. I feel sorry for the poor knowledge of this famous politician. USA, UK, Germany, France and Japan do not have our model of students’ politics. They do not have nationwide students’ organization affiliated with political parties. Yet, their universities produced greatest political leaders. According to Mr Menon these countries should have suffered serious political leadership vacuum. Alas! We lost a chance of becoming a role model.

Through this article I urge up on our political parties and their leaders not to destroy our education system. Keep education out of politics. I request the education minister to have courage and bring an end to present form of students’ politics in Bangladesh. Ban all sorts of party politics in campus. Bangladeshi children are as good as any other children. Given the opportunity they can achieve the best. Give them education and that will bring genuine change. Colleges and universities should provide support for development of other talents – sports and games, debates, cultural activities. Bangladesh could one day become the destination for higher studies for students from all corners of the world. Bangladesh may perhaps be a role model if it can bring those bold and courageous changes.

London, 01-November-2019.                                                                 <>

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