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We learn nothing

  • Published at 06:32 pm July 21st, 2018
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Our country fails the bigger test REUTERS

Your grades don’t measure your worth 

Somewhere along the line, we forgot to teach our children about treating other people with respect.

Sure, they got their fair share of lectures about the importance of passing exams. They got it hammered into their brains that failing their SSC or HSC means they have failed at life.

And now that the numbers are in for the dreaded Higher Secondary Certificate, so are the predictable consequences.

Since the publication of HSC results, at least five students have committed suicide, while two others have attempted to take their own lives. One young woman took tranquilizers after failing four papers, others hanged themselves in their rooms.

Mental health is a complex issue, and far be it from us to draw any direct causation between students failing the exam and ending their lives, but there is no denying that a spike in suicides among exam candidates is always seen in the first couple of days following SSC and HSC results coming out.

But when exam results seem like the be all and end all, and all other values of being a decent human being fall by the wayside, we get the society we deserve.

We get the kind of society where the nation’s premier educational institute, Dhaka University, is synonymous with violence and danger.

How many times have we seen images of Chhatra League’s brutality and hooliganism? How many times have we seen young men being bruised and battered for engaging in peaceful protests? How many times have we seen young women being sexually assaulted in broad daylight, in the premises of some of our most hallowed sites?

These abhorrent activities do not take place in tucked away corners of society, in some seedy underworld where respectable people dare not venture they are mainstream.

It is simply a day to day reality of our most prestigious academic institution, nearly a hundred years old, one located smack in the middle of this great city, boasting memories of 1952, 1971, and many other movements that dreamed of pushing the country forward.

Now, in 2018, a young woman cannot walk through the campus past a group of cadres congregating on the roadside without her heart pounding, and any day that she can return home without at least one unsavoury comment passed her way is considered a good day.

Somewhere along the line, we forgot to teach our children that sexual harassment was wrong, that assaulting and attacking protesters was wrong, that rape was wrong.

It boggles the mind that something as obvious as rape being wrong needs to be said, but we live in a country where way too many young men simply don’t know this. Their thought process goes something like this: She was walking around the arts institute by herself, wearing those? Hey, she was asking for it.

In the last six months alone, 592 incidents of rape were reported across Bangladesh -- a number that almost certainly understates the true figure, because most victims do not come forward.

A whopping 2,063 women and children were victims of some form of violence or other, and some 268 were murdered.

Did those rapists and murderers pass their SSC and HSC? I wonder.  

What about the BCL hooligans, violent and proud -- did they pass their exams? Will some of them end up with Master’s degrees, PhDs, heck, even end up as Dhaka University faculty? It’s possible.

And those lessons and values will keep being passed on.

And we will keep telling our kids they need to do well in school, and only when they pass their exams and get their degrees will we tell them we are proud of them.

But what do we tell the kid who knows how to treat others? 

What about the “stupid” kid who gives his Eid money to a poor child on the street out of genuine empathy? 

What about the “weak” child who gets upset when she sees animals being mistreated, because she feels that all God’s creatures deserve to be loved and protected?

What about the “slow” kid who, despite best efforts, fails all his exams, but knows how to respect people, and stands up to injustices he sees around him?

Can we tell them, “I am proud of you, because you are a good person”?

Somewhere along the line, we forgot what mattered.

Abak Hussain is Editor, Editorial and Op-Ed, Dhaka Tribune.