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     Volume 1 Issue 18 | December 10, 2006 |


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Knowledge in distress
tudents speak out

Ferdous Khan

Today we see ourselves in the middle of a big, ugly, surfacially political mess. But it isn't just rallies, riots and tea parties. Everyone is being affected. It isn't just small businesses--which after all make up the economy of the country--that are being held up, but life itself. As students we find ourselves with an impromptu and indefinite holiday, temporarily relaxing (and catching up on much deprived beauty sleep and many, many, many, many, many reruns) but frustrating in the long-term. This week's spotlight is on what we students are going through, what we understand of it and what we plan to do. So far, the consensus is basically "Let's get out now! Let's run for our lives while we still can!"

We spoke to students around the city and asked them the four magic questions (we couldn't decide what was the one magic question). This is what they had to say.

(1) What is your major concern right now for yourself in context of the country?
Saber Ahmed Khan: With the situation of Bangladesh as it is right now and as it has been for the past few years, political stability in the future is very unpredictable. As a university student my major concern would be to secure my own future honestly, and at the rate at which our classes are being postponed and our universities being shut down because of this constant political instability, working for that secure future is becoming more and more difficult. As it is, the education environment in Bangladesh is not so friendly to start with anyways...this situation just adds to the pressure of keeping up.

Samira Aziz: I need the transcripts for my IELTS and because of the freaking oborodh I can't go to university today.

Tawsif Saleheen: Well I am doing fine but I wish the people involved with politics would restrict their conflicts to themselves and not dip into the daily lives of the normal people. My dad is having a hard time trying to get his payments and he already suffers from high blood pressure. He doesn't need this right now!

Sabrina Ali: Leaving the country.

Tamara Hussain: To be able to move around safely, without being harmed. Shuddho Fuad Sadi: The existing political system of Bangladesh of course!

People might say that I'm an outsider in politics (with limited knowledge), but psychologically I'm always involved. We all are. Being forced to be selfish due to circumstances, my major concern is to secure a better future for me and my family, which will automatically guarantee a secured future for my fellow citizens (as I believe that eradicating the political instability of this country is the best option).

M: Right now I'm worried about how I'm going to get around to finish all my work and with all the unnecessary pressure from the university it seem that the simplest everyday tasks are going to be impossible to do.

Fauzul Azim Kibria: None. I cannot identify myself as the citizen of a country with leaders so blatantly selfish and shamelessly ignorant of actuality. Although, I will admit to being once a proud citizen of Bangladesh (heh, "admit"; it sounds as if I'm confessing to a crime), I have since lost my faith in the complete renovation of the whole infrastructure I was once hoping for. I am, in the context of Bangladesh, an anarchist.

Mokabbir Sarkar: Right now my major concern in context of the country is to ensure a fair, impartial parliamentary election, which will conclude the political instability in our country and thereby allow me to study and graduate smoothly.

Rezaur Rahman: I think the country is passing through a disastrous situation, unrest; uncertain intolerance and violence has already bewildered people. The radar of the ship named Bangladesh is not functioning properly. The operation manual has become unreadable and utterly destroyed. In mid-ocean the ship must be kept running or it will collapse at any moment without an expert captain. Crisis in leadership negates our every hope. Can we expect the top leaders to rise above narrow-mindedness and rethink the leadership needed to prevent a catastrophe? We are a democracy only in name; democracy is not truly here. We have been awaiting a leader who can guide us to safety, who bears free, fair and impartial elections in mind.

Afia Sultana: Right now, each and every single thing is being affected by the present political disaster in Bangladesh. In particular, students are facing session jams. Exams are not being taken on time and so on. The economy is being affected, prices of daily goods are rising and eventually all the middleclass families are facing trouble.

Sanjida Yasmeen: I really don't know. We the students are hanging around in uncertainty because of this political mess. Studies are being hampered a lot.

Rafiqual Islam: All of us are in great trouble. We can't plan our future right now in our own way, because nothing is happening accordingly. No one can say what will happen today or the next day.

Ashfaqur Rahman: Classes are being hampered; studies are being mess for their stupid and unhealthy chaos. Our personal security, communication and other daily activities are blocked.

Sabbir Hussain: Instability, this single word explains the situation not only to us students but also to each citizen of Bangladesh. This predominant rapture of the political parties has created havoc in my routine. Everything- starting from classes to final exams, plans with friends, part-time jobs are on an indefinite hold. Things need to settle down fast.

Asifur Rahman Khan: That the semester break is shortened.

Saad Muntazim: The turmoil our country is in right now because of the ignorant political people.

Prices are up, the crime rate is up, people ARE tearing each others heads off in the streets and on TV(!), traffic on the days we are 'allowed to lead our normal lives are horrible...oh there are so many things…

(2) What do you understand of the political situation?
Saber Ahmed Khan: The only factor to understand from this situation now in Bangladesh, is that it has happened before (4 years back), it is happening now, and it will happen again in the future (4 years later). The only significant difference would probably be the body count after each drama. We should all be prepared, especially us students.

Tamara Hussain: It's a mess...doesn't look like democracy to me…

Shuddho Fuad Sadi : There's not much to say. The same thing's happening every time a party is getting re-elected. The “self-sacrificing” politicians have always been the only ones benefiting from serving their country. The fact is that the situation has been devastating for so long, that we have actually gotten used to it.

M: The political situation is absolutely silly Khaleda and Hasina think that they and they only have an absolute right over this country because their families played some part in shaping it. The government forgets that people are being held hostage to their charade.

Fauzul Azim Kibria: I understand that the current political situation is wholly the result of the egoistic decisions of a handful of people and do not represent the will of the populace as a whole. And now, the turmoil has escalated to the point where any kind of reconciliation within any parties involved are improbable, if not impossible.

Mokabbir Sarkar: I am not going to answer this question. Maybe I don't know the answer, or my answer may tempted to partiality. But all I can say is that the present political situation arose out of our forefathers mistakes, made one after another and not envisaging the future impact.

Samira Aziz: I don't watch much TV, but I hear the president has arranged a tea party with Hasina and Khaleda today. Must be festive to drink tea in patterned china eh?

Oh and it's needless to mention how the foreigners are running wild, shaking hands with whoever necessary so that a civil war doesn't break lose. After all, it will affect their precious import and export business.

Tawsif Saleheen: I don't know much but I get this nagging feeling that I know more than the politicians.

Sabrina Ali: I know that there are tea parties arranged in BIG houses and culture kicking discotheques booming in the streets! I say we just place the two political leaders on a rickshaw in Calcutta and leave them strangled in each other's saris upside down!

Robin Chowdhury: Honestly, I don't know much!

Rezaur Rahman: It seems that with its present set up, the existing worn out Election Commission is bogged down with the burden of controversies, man-made problems, faulty voter lists and above all, lack of public confidence and trust. They are incapable of holding a free or fair election by January 21, 2007. The EC must maintain law and order with an iron hand in order to conduct the 2007 election properly. There could be a qualitative change in the political culture of the country as a whole.

Sanjida Yasmeen: Embarrassing… Can you think of the day that Dr. Yunus got the Nobel Prize for Peace, right after one week, I still believe the basis of all this is to educate people and naturally start by making sure that those who represent the upper class are educated themselves.

Afia Sultana: As a medical student, obviously I want to establish myself as a successful doctor so that I can help people in proper ways.

Sanjida Yasmeen: Obviously I want to see myself in a good professional life. May be I would like to go abroad for higher studies.

Rafiqual Islam: Uncertain future…totally lost.

Ashfaqur Rahman: Government employee.

Sabbir Hussain: Well, I see myself overcoming all these difficulties and becoming as successful as possible.

Asifur Rahman Khan: I don't know what I will be doing tonight, as for 10 years...

Saad Muntazim: I will probably be in some university teaching in a peaceful atmosphere, hopefully as Dr. Saad Muntazim.

Towhid Ahmed: I foresee that things will get worse. I am concerned for my own well being. I feel that the situation is hopeless. I know it is selfish of me but then again at the end of the day every man is for himself. So probably I will settle abroad and visit the country once in a while.

(4) What can you do now to improve things for everyone?
Saber Ahmed Khan : As a student, I think the best help for this country would be to provide genuine knowledge of facts to the general student body; to make every student be fully aware of the political situation in Bangladesh, so as to eradicate corrupt politics when possible. Knowledge is power, and in this case, the power of us students (the immediate next generation) is so great, that we alone (armed with that knowledge) can completely alter the disastrous future that our country is headed towards.
Tamara Hussain: What can I do? I don't have the power nor the money...if I had power, I would ask the corruption bureau to take serious actions against corrupt individuals, and lock up the stubborn unreasonable strife-creating political individuals who are always at loggerheads with each other!

Shuddho Fuad Sadi : By making the young generation (students) aware of their rights and responsibilities as citizens of the country, so that we (as a whole) can eliminate the ignorance of the vast majority of the common population. Our people must realize that a democratic government is, “of the people, by the people, for the people.” It is actually they, who have the power to elect or overthrow a government. It is they, who can make the real difference.

M: Start a two-taka collection from every residence in Dhaka for a clean up programme, because our city sure needs a face-lift.

Fauzul Azim Kibria: I don't know. If I did, I would've already tried my best to do it.

Mokabbir Sarkar: I am not a superhero out of a comic book. So I cannot do something that will improve things for everyone. It's teamwork all the way, and life is more thrilling than any blockbuster ever created. One thing can be done, that is if you do like "Nur Hossain", paint your body saying "Shoirachar Nipat Jak Gonotontro Mukti Pak.." and run towards Bangabhaban...it may create some public awareness, nothing more than that. People are so exhausted that they are not willing to come forward. The deprived portion of this country can do something for your question, we the privileged will not put out a step forward. That's the reality.

Samira Aziz: If there was a war against another country, I would give my life for the people but to help out within the country is actually a bigger problem. What can I do? Who will listen to me? I need help and since no one will step forward I am just going to leave.

Tawsif Saleheen: The only way I can help the country is by not getting killed.... so that I can actually help others later on.

Rezaur Rahman: I would like to emphasize two very important points. The election ought to be held according to the constitutional provisions within a certain time frame. It is for every Bangladeshi to think about whether the caretaker government can be exercised further. I think we can shift away from this system. I hope today's situation will help in generating a new awareness amongst us, that will prevent us from committing the same mistakes again. Another major challenge facing Bangladesh today is how to strengthen the existing political institutions and simultaneously bring about faster economic growth.

Afia Sultana: Bangladesh has become so badly corrupted. As a result, you see the 'Question Out' incident at the MBBS admission exam. These things should be prevented. I want to take higher degrees in medical studies and work for the common people, in remote areas as well.

Sanjida Yasmeen: These two leading women should be abandoned by politics. Some one who can rule neutrally and can come out form the political (corrupted) circle should lead the country.

Bangladesh has become the most peace-less country. To me, literature is much easier than politics and I don't want to understand that as well.

Rafiqual Islam: Politicians of our country don't think about the country, they just think of their own good.

Sabbir Hussain: That all the people that are related to Bangladesh's politics are nothing but selfish money grabbers. They don't care or think about the situation or about the welfare of our country.

Asifur Rahman Khan: It doesn't make any sense that AL is calling the blockades in the interest of the country yet the blockade is killing off millions economically, morally etc.

Saad Muntazim: The escalating austerity of it is really overwhelming. I really don't know when the outrageous demands and the even more outrageous approaches towards its enforcement are going to end.
Towhid Ahmed: The two political parties feel that Bangladesh is their private property and have no respect for its people. They're fighting for power, for owning this country without any regard for the welfare of the people. Their mentality has become such that Bangladesh has to be owned at all costs regardless of what the normal people face.

(3) Where and how do you see yourself in 10 years?
Saber Ahmed Khan : I see myself enjoying an honest job or a business, and living a decent and safe life with my own family. I would love nothing more than to settle in my beautiful home country, and raise my children in a proper traditional environment. But, being practical, at the rate at which the situation is deteriorating, I honestly cannot picture that here in Bangladesh.

Tamara Hussain: Hard-working, not in politics…but affected by politics

Shuddho Fuad Sadi : Shot dead, trying to protest against oppression. Seriously! If the current situation persists, I don't see any other alternative.
M: I see myself settled in Bangladesh (because I don't think I'd be comfortable anywhere else) and pursuing a career in technical consultation, although I do hope to be self employed and well settled around that time.

Fauzul Azim Kibria: I see myself as a successful SME entrepreneur or executive in a multinational company in 10 years. (It's the truth, even though it does sound extremely selfish.)

Mokabbir Sarkar: If I live for another 10 years and if everything goes moderately fine then I will probably be a practicing lawyer of the Supreme Court, or, if I apply for the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) I could be an Assistant District Judge posting in any district around the country.

Samira Aziz: Away from here where my education won't get hampered! I think we will all prosper better away from here.

Tawsif Saleheen: I see myself in a (darn it! The cricket game between Zimbabwe and Bangldesh was on....hey replaced it with the news! How annoying) anyway I see myself in a good position working with a great company and driving around in a bulletproof car!

Sabrina Ali: I see myself here actually. I think we can all pull it off. Yes, there is a concern because I don't want my kids to grow up here if the political arena remains so but I don't want to risk my kids growing up in the west either because they have their flaws too!

Robin Chowdhury: Hopefully I will be able to help the people in Bangladesh. I have a plan in my mind that could improve the state of the people. It would require having small educational institutions in villages for people who are going abroad. When we look at it, they are the majority flying off to different places. If we could give them the basics of education their economic status would go up a level, their jobs abroad would pay 100 dollars more and you do the math!

Rafiqual Islam: I can't, because if I want to contribute anything to my country, I need the help of our corrupted politicians or the people who are in high positions in society. And they are not ready to help, neither they want to understand anything nor to hear anyone. [

Ashfaqur Rahman: I want to motivate people against corruption. I would love to help people through consultancy to sort out their problems and make them aware about laws and ethics (most people don't want to hear anyone) at a free cost.

Asifur Rahman Khan: Carry on with normal activities.

Saad Muntazim: Work on the percipience of voting amongst the "privileged" segment of the population. People who are lucky enough to support their education at any private university never seem to realize or care who is running the government and what implications it might have to their future. And ironically the shifts politics never seem to affect their way of life. How nothing changes regardless of which party is in power and how they go to school and go to clubs and go about their merry way without caring.

Towhid Ahmed: Students can involve themselves in NGO's or other organizations that allow them to voice out their thoughts and feelings. In a small scale, personally we students can teach underprivileged children at home, even the children of the people who work in our homes. For real penetration, large funds and cooperation required which is not seen so far.

So thus ends our brief Blockade 101 course. Nevertheless, there are still people who have a measure of optimism out there…because eventually, you have to become immune to survive. Whether it's a bulletproof car or three cheers for our Nobel Laureate, one way or another, we dimly crawl towards a vague yet unquestionably better future.

Dhaka University: Reflections...

Since its inception, Dhaka University was branded as the Oxford of the East. It was compared only because of the high standard of education given in Dhaka University. The university worked hard to build up an outstanding record of academic achievement in the past years. The university contributed to the emergence of a generation of leaders who distinguished themselves in different walks of life in Bangladesh. It is believed that most of the trained human resources of Bangladesh engaged in Education, Administration, Diplomacy, Politics, Trade & Commerce and Industrial employees in all sectors provided by this great university. The environment of education in the university has been tremendously hampered by the political activity of several politically backed student organization. Although this university has been providing great contribution to the country's political movement in the past it has now become the victim of this politics itself.

The educational activity of the university is going through crisis because of the indefinite strikes called by several political student organizations and their demands. So far we haven't really taken any sensible steps from the university authority, which can be useful for resolving the existing crisis. Students of Dhaka University are very disconcerted with this present deadlock situation in the university. Rashed, a student of DU laments, 'I don't know whether the authority have any headache for resolving the problem. My concern is how they are taking essential steps to ensure the University and resume in its actions.'

Students from all the departments have shown the same concern. They are worried about concluding their graduation in due time. Vast numbers of exams have been postponed and the risk and probability of session jam is increasing every minute. Nipa, a student of Finance says, 'we had our final semester exam scheduled on Last November. But due to this stubborn political crisis, our exam has been postponed. I am not sure about finishing this exam within the months ahead!'

Still so it is the final year students that are facing the worst. Many were dreaming of completing the final exams and of getting into jobs. 'I am very disturbed. I was dreaming of concluding my graduation on time, but all of a sudden everything has changed. In fact by now I would have been eligible for any job otherwise" says Shahriar, a final year student.

Nazmul, a student of Public Administration says, 'Our department already took five years to complete a three and half years syllabus and we don't know how long it will take to reach graduation!' Faculty of Business Studies, Social Science and Arts has some opportunity to accelerate their academic schedule whenever the university resumes in action. Sinthia, a student of chemistry says, 'It always takes almost two months or more to finish our final exam along with practical exams. But, if classes remain close in such a way then you can understand how much time it will take to conclude our graduation!'

Many departments like- International Relations, Public Administration, Accounting, Finance, Management, and Marketing were ready to declare the schedule of the department's final year exam. But now these departments have to reschedule it. 'I believe in student politics' says Towfiq, 'I do believe that students need an organization to express and exchange their various problems and demands. But it should organize in a modest manner. What has been happening in these days in the name of demand fulfillment is absolutely ridiculous. You cannot use the students as a weapon of meeting your demand' he says. Some students also requested the political organizations to withdraw their strike. Hasan, a student of IER says 'I am requesting to the all political parties of our country, please keep our education systems free from all political activities. Please give us some opportunity to continue our study without any disturbance.'

Some students are going through financial hardships because of this uncertainty. 'My family is bearing all my expenses. I don't come from a rich family and so I have to return them some feed back as early as possible.' Says Joya, a student of marketing. 'But, if the situation remains so then what will my fate be?' she laments.

The vast campus of Dhaka University looked like a desert today. Most of the students do not come to the campus. But they want to witness the changes taking place. 'This is totally disturbing and I have nothing to do at home. I love being in the university campus with my friends and I miss the “addas” with my friends since the university has been closed since two months ago. Please take some steps to unlock the university' says Aanika.

Like Aanika we also want, the university authority and all the student organizations to move forward and bring the normal life back in Dhaka University-Oxford of the East.

Cover story done by
Farhana Jamil Tinni,
Shayera Moula,
Afrina Chowdhury,
Sanam Amin,Tazmia Islam Nion
and Shamim



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