Student leadersby FR Chowdhury
EVER since I settled down in the United Kingdom, I have been a regular reader of some locally-published Bengali papers. One very common news item that I read is about receptions in honour of some student leaders from Bangladesh. There is no end to such receptions. They have been taking place for long and will probably continue to take place in future.
What we understand as a student loader in the UK is a brilliant and outstanding student who draws the respect and admiration of other students. They are like role models to other students. They also lead various students movements independent of political parties. These are mostly for the cause of education such as for lowering university fees, increasing stipends and scholarships for meritorious students or for increasing library facilities. They do not join political parties for their programmes.
Back in Bangladesh it is different. Student leaders are not necessarily good students. They are like gang leaders. They are very loyal and obedient followers of their political masters. They are unfortunately associated with rioting, killing, extortion, raping, hijacking, etc, which are not conducive to a civilised society. I still remember, perhaps three or four years after our liberation that seventeen students were massacred on the university campus by brush-firing. Nobody had to face any legal action. In a matter of few days the prime suspect emerged as a new political leader. It is a matter of shame on the student community and its leaders who could commit such heinous crime. These so-called student leaders now want to control admission of new students. They seem determined to destroy educational system and the total infrastructure. As it is, in last few years standard of education in Bangladesh has already deteriorated a lot. Degree from a Bangladesh university is not accepted for higher studies in the UK or the United States.
Poor parents from remote villages sometime sell the last piece of land or cattle to send a son to a big city for higher education. On arrival they become easy prey for student leaders who train them in the art of bomb-making. Then rival gangs clash with each other for control of students’ hostels. The rich, who can afford, send their children abroad for education. Most of them never return to Bangladesh. Those who return hold key position in public and private sector. The so-called student leaders are to blame for this trend of not allowing the poor to get educated. They have simply destroyed the educational environment. We could do better without Chhatra League, Chhatra Dal, Chhatra Union, Chhatra Shibir, etc.
Let us look at their achievement in the field of education. If we look back at last 25 years we can hardly find any of these so-called student leaders to have established themselves in society as a top civil servant or a High Court judge or barrister or general or admiral or a famous doctor or engineer. Other than one or two exceptions I have not heard about any of them having a PhD. One cannot achieve them by street demonstration or gang activity. They require talent, merit and efforts.
Recently, the weekly Janomot published a list of one hundred most influential Bangladeshi in British society. It included civil servants, military personnel, doctors, engineers, accountants, lawyers, professors, politicians and business leaders. It was a good effort by Janomot. I am sure our younger generations shall be inspired. However, the reason I am writing about is that despite my best efforts I could not trace out any of our so-called student leaders there though quite a few of them are now settled in the UK.
There was a time when the nation used to be proud of the student community. The students provided the leadership during our language movement. The students fought alongside rest of the people for the liberation of the country. Many sacrificed their lives. We remember them with a lot of admiration. The present student community got a lot to learn from them. But first of all the students community have to get rid of the selfish bunch of so-called student leaders.
I am writing this article at a time when things seem to have gone beyond all limits. The home minister calls upon student leaders aligned to their political party to resist any movement by opposition. The next thing we see a bunch of so-called student leaders of the same party kill (perhaps through mistaken identity) an innocent person in broad daylight. Law and order is a matter for the police to look after and it is not for the student to resist one party or another. The latest I see in the pages of our newspapers is that students beat up their teachers. The traditional moral values are lost and teacher-student relationship has gone to a point of no return. Certainly there is no healthy environment in the educational institutes for flourishing education. Common citizens and their children are being deprived of education. The education sector needs to be rescued from the clutches of so-called student parties and their leaders.
In my life time, by good fortune of my career, I travelled to almost all corners of the world, no less than sixty to seventy countries, and nowhere I have seen anything like that. Such student politics do not exist anywhere — the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, France, Russia and China or not even in the DPRK (North Korea). Our neighbours such as India, Pakistan and Sri-Lanka do not have this nuisance. Where did we get it from? There are students unions in every democratic state. I am aware of such unions in Harvard and Cambridge. They are not connected with any political party. It requires lot of talent to become a student leader in those institutions. They do a whole lot of good things for the students and the community.
Our students got to understand how the politicians are exploiting them and depriving them of their education whereas all of them (politicians) send their children abroad. They must expose the hypocrisy of the politicians. I call upon all political parties to kindly refrain from using students for their political ambitions.
We the senior citizens have a responsibility. We must not give up. We must continue our efforts to bring all students back on track for education. It is only through better education that we can make Bangladesh prosperous. Please, no more reception for these so-called student leaders. We must honour and encourage our talented students.
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