The foundation of awakening is entering its 100th year
First of July is the founding day of Dhaka University. On this day in 1921, Dhaka University was established in the face of many obstacles and conspiracies in return for the efforts and sacrifices of some of the nation's selfless heroes.
At the time when Bangladesh will celebrate the golden jubilee of independence, Dhaka University (DU) will also celebrate its centenary. The year is not too far away, July 1, 1921. The highest educational institution of the country was established with the aim of building a knowledge-based society in East Bengal.
Over the last nine decades, DU has produced many scholars, presidents, prime ministers, ministers, members of parliament, political leaders, scientists, teachers, and millions of graduates. They have contributed in various important sectors at home and abroad.
At the beginning of its creation, DU faced various adversities. The process of establishing the University of Dhaka began in the second decade of the 20th century with the purpose of developing independent nationhood during the British colonial rule. The university is the result of the protests of the people of East Bengal against the unjust decision of the then rulers in British India. The Nathan Committee's positive report was published in 1913 and was approved in December of that year.
The Dhaka University Act (Act No 13) of 1920 was passed by the Indian Legislative Assembly on March 13, 1920, after the Sadler Commission formed in 1917 also gave a positive proposal. On March 23, 1920, the governor-general approved the bill. This law is the basis of the establishment of this university.
On February 26, 1923, the then governor of Bengal and chancellor of DU, Lord Lytton, said at the convocation of the graduates of 1922: "I have already stated in public that in my opinion this university is Dacca's greatest possession and will do more than anything else to increase and spread the fame of Dacca beyond the limits of Bengal or even of India itself.”
In this way, DU has determined the free opportunities and course of non-communal intellectual development in the development of nationalism of the people of East Bengal.
DU has played a pioneering role in the social, political, and cultural life of the Bengalis. This university is deeply involved in everything that has been achieved at the national level. The university has played a direct leadership role in establishing a separate nation-state.
The campus of DU has served as the foundation of awakening in every moment of national need. The students and teachers of DU were the pioneers in every movement including the language movement of 1952, the mass uprising of 1969, the great liberation war of 1971, and the anti-authoritarian movement. The university which has been shining as a beacon of light for decades is entering its 100th year.
The recognition of Bangla as the state language created a glorious history. This is a rare instance in the history of the world. The origin, spread, and success of this successful movement were centered on DU. The formation of the Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad and the movement behind its success were all centered on DU. The University of Dhaka can be termed as “the birthplace” of the independence movement and the foothold of its success.
Undoubtedly, DU has done a lot of good research, innovation, and creative work in the last 99 years. In this case, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the world-famous Scientist Satyendra Nath Bose, Muhammad Shahidullah, FC Turner, W Jenkins, Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, Hara Prasad Shastri, Political Scientist and National Professor Abdur Razzak, Tajuddin Ahmad, Dr Ahmed Sharif, Sardar Fazlul Karim, Ahmed Sofa, Poet Shamsur Rahman, Humayun Azad, Muhammad Yunus, Dr Anisuzzaman, Dr Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, and we can mention the names of many other outstanding researchers-scholars and poets-writers.
We have a lot of successes to celebrate. Yes, we are very proud. Yet we have no chance of complacency. I want to mention what our achievements should be in the next 100 years and what we have failed to achieve in this century:
Research centres and budget
The research center is one of the affiliates of the university. Although there are 56 research bureaus and centres at DU, it goes without saying that there is no basic research. None of them has enough manpower and office. It’s important for DU to increase its quality through teachers engaging in more research.
The university is losing its place in the world rankings due to the lack of basic research in these centres for improving the quality of the higher education system as well as formal education. According to the 2019-20 fiscal year, out of the budget of Tk810 crore, only Tk16 crores has been allocated for the research sector, which is only 2% of the non-development budget.
Sustainable steps need to be taken to ensure the quality of higher education. In addition, the achievement of seven out of 17 of the sustainable development goals depends directly or indirectly on the education sector. I hope that DU will play a leading role in establishing a developed and prosperous Bangladesh.
Accommodation at DU
The accommodation crisis at DU, the country’s leading institution for higher studies, has been more acute in recent years, seriously hampering academic activities. At present, the university consists of 13 faculties, 83 departments, 12 institutes, 20 residential halls, and three hostels.
There are resources and budget constraints, but our first priority should be allocating our resources for the betterment of our students. Only legal students should be allowed to stay at the halls as per the rules of dormitories.
According to the bureau, the university has published only 180 books in the 99 years since its establishment in 1921. DU publication's dismal condition is nothing new, as the university had published only three books last year, two in 2018, one in 2017, four in 2016, and none in 2015 and 2014, according to the catalogue of DU Publications Bureau. This sad situation indicates the waning impact of the university.
DU's ranking among universities around the world is going down every year. This is mainly due to inadequate academic, inadequate budgets for research, and research initiatives.
DU is not having foreign students as expected, as the centennial of its founding approaches. Currently, the university has 49 foreign students studying in different departments and institutes. The absence of standard accommodation and complex admission system along with other limitations are the key hurdles to attract overseas students.
A proper environment to study and a place to sleep should be ensured first. The words “learning environment” are much broader in the university. In this case, it includes the living environment, the learning environment on campus, and with it the safety of the student.
The environment of the university halls is unhealthy. Eight people have to stay in a room with four seats. It goes without saying that there is no reading environment in the room. Many students spend the first two years on the porch or floor of a mosque. Many meritorious students have lost interest due to this environment.
After nearly three decades, the long-awaited Dhaka University Central Students' Union (DUCSU) election is also a milestone in the democratic tradition. For better or for worse, I would like to thank all those involved, including the vice-chancellor.
The closure of its activities for a long time also had an adverse effect on the overall environment of the university. Because it helps the students nurture, through a democratic process and bargain with the authorities for their due rights.
Although the number of departments and students is increasing, the number of seats in the library is not increasing. The immediate solution to such problems is to build a modern and up-to-date multi-storied central library complex quickly.
As it is the oldest, largest university in the country, the teachers and students of DU have to play a responsible role.
In the words of Syed Abul Maksud: “The history of Bangladesh means the history of Dhaka University. Therefore, just as Dhaka University is unique in its knowledge and glory, its role in the flourishing and development of Bengali nationalism is enviable, just as its role in the independence movement and liberation war of Bangladesh is universal.
“The Father of the Nation and the greatest Bengali of all time, a former student of this university, has a vast reservoir of pride. Now our responsibility is to enrich the reservoir.”
The University of Dhaka is maybe the only educational institution in the world that is entirely related to the rise, birth, and progress of a nation. DU is glorious as an institution that nurtures all the cultural, social, and political traditions of the country.
Enriched in science and technology, the graduates of DU are committed to developing talented students of the society as skilled human resources, based on science, generosity, and human qualities.
I firmly believe that Dhaka University will play a leading role in transforming Bangladesh from a developing country to a middle-income country and a developed country in the near future.
Md Jahid Hashan is a post-graduate student at the Department of Political Science, the University of Dhaka.