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Politics doesn’t belong on campus

  • Published at 11:59 pm October 12th, 2019
Buet Protest
Students stage protest over alleged murder of Buet student Abrar Fahad on Friday, October 11, 2019 Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Universities are meant for education and nothing more

Against the backdrop of the horrific murder of Abrar Fahad, a student of Buet -- a university which is considered to be a dream for almost every student -- the time has come for policy-makers to pay serious attention to a demand raised by many: Ban party politics on campuses by both students and teachers.

It is good to see Buet take the initiative to ban politics on campus -- this example should be followed.

The contribution of the students and teachers to people’s interests in the past cannot be denied. But, sadly, in the last three decades, student politics on campuses has changed for the worse, and the very objective of the politics has always been absent.

Whichever party, Awami League or BNP, comes to power, campuses are controlled by the student wing of the ruling party. And the leaders and activists of that student wing become akin to an evil force which do evil things, not limited to engaging in illegal activities and party politics.

Political parties use their student wings as steps to remain in or come to power. There have been many deaths on campuses, allegedly by students belonging to student wings of the ruling parties. Such criminality has been made possible only because the perpetrators had the blessing of their ruling parties.

The killing of Abrar is only the latest example.

Apart from one or two, most of these killings would not have taken place if the killers were not backed by the ruling parties. This has to end immediately for the future of the country.

It is well known that student organizations exist in almost all leading academic institutions of the world. But their activities are usually confined to practicing democracy, to pave the way for future leadership and raise their voices about issues that affect their education, such as tuition fee hike, price hike of accessories, etc.

Unlike in Bangladesh, they do not dance to the tunes of politicians.

The objectives behind the inception of organizations like the Dhaka University Central Students’ Union were to emulate international universities. But unfortunately, those objectives have become null and void now. Instead, the student organizations in our country have become the standard bearers of power and money. Students unions are necessary for our country, but without party politics.

The constitution allows any person over the age of 18 to engage in politics. So if a student wants to engage in politics, it is perfectly OK for him or her to do so. But this has to be outside the campuses of the educational institutions -- which are meant to provide education and nothing more.

Something else that the country has been forced to bear for a long time is the engagement of teachers in party politics. Sometimes it feels like most teachers have forgotten that their job is to teach. It is seen in teachers’ association elections how candidates vie for posts under the banner of this political party or that.

Vice chancellors at our universities are not appointed on merit but instead on the basis of party affiliation. Needless to say, if someone is made VC due to his or her loyalty to the ruling parties, it gets very difficult for him or her to carry out their responsibilities neutrally. 

Therefore, party politics on the part of teachers has to be reformed in a way that helps the interests of the education sector, especially in a way that does something to turn around the gradual loss of respect they have been experiencing from students and the general public. 

Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan is Special Correspondent, Dhaka Tribune.