Have we forgotten what they stood for?
We will again observe the day today; we will again mourn for them; we will again recall the contributions that they made.
Today, December 14, is one of the most tragic days in the history of Bangladesh. The Pakistani death squads with the active participation of their local collaborators systematically and in a planned way killed most of our enlightened souls when they knew their defeat was imminent.
By snuffing out these souls, they wanted to maim a nation on the verge of becoming an independent country.
They killed our educationists, doctors, journalists, and artists -- those who were a guiding light for us.
The intention was clear: The Pakistanis wanted to destroy the intellectual backbone of a nation.
Today, we will commemorate this day by offering flowers and respect at the Martyred Intellectuals Memorial and the Rayerbazar Killing Ground, our TV channels will broadcast special programs, newspapers will run articles, and we will have discussions on the matter.
Like every year, our leaders and eminent persons will again urge all of us to build a knowledge-based society.
Now, what happens in a knowledge-based society? What do the state and its citizens need to do in order to create such a society? It is an environment in which everyone in the society is well-educated and the state relies on the people’s knowledge to drive innovations which advance the social, economic, and political dynamic of the country in an ever-changing world.
In a knowledge-seeking society, it is imperative that education is given the highest priority in all spheres of life.
If Bangladesh had not lost its most knowledgeable people, it would have become one of the most advanced nations in the world by now. The spirit of the martyrs would have driven us to develop a nation in which the citizens are not only literate, but also truly educated.
If we were genuinely passionate and respectful regarding the vision of our martyrs, we would have committed ourselves to developing a single holistic education system in our country. But we simply didn’t care. We have allowed our education to become disorganized and inefficient, creating different forms of educational models in the process.
We have three streams of education in the country now: Bangla, Arabic, and English. I still don’t understand the need for Arabic and English streams of education.
The creation of Islamic seminaries had a historical reason. But we didn’t upgrade them to a knowledge-oriented medium. On the other hand, there are many Islamic countries that have updated their Islam-based systems to include science and philosophy.
Then came the costly English medium stream of education. Suddenly, society realized that we had to learn the English language in order to keep up with the world. This, in turn, created another great division among the learners of our society.
What happened to the English language schooling that we had received for 12 long years in our Bangla medium schools? Were the rest of us unable to learn English by having it as a compulsory subject?
But, then again, why do we have to learn English in the first place?
What do countries like Japan, China, and Russia do when it comes to communicating and learning through the English language? I’m not sure whether they also have English medium schools but I’m quite sure that they don’t have to pursue higher education in a foreign language.
Why do we have to do that? Why don’t we have all the textbooks at the university level in our own language? I don’t think it would be very difficult, or we would fall back if we studied all the sciences in Bangla.
If our martyred intellectuals were still among us, I’m sure they would have advised us to earn knowledge through our Bangla language. If we were designing our education sector keeping them in mind, we wouldn’t have had so many distortions in our education system.
I must also say that our martyrs wouldn’t have envisioned any party politics in higher education either. As we can see, the education in our universities has always been disrupted by party politics.
The universities have been used and abused for power-mongering and our leaders forgot about what our children were learning.
The university campuses of independent Bangladesh are not the place for your political hunger. It is the place to nurture the citizens who will contribute to the future of Bangladesh.
Therefore, if we really cared for those enlightened souls who had sacrificed their lives for the freedom of this country, we would have applied their knowledge and wisdom for the continued betterment of our nation.
Ekram Kabir is a story-teller. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.