How can the lives of DU students really be improved?
I don’t know how to react to this piece of news. The university that I studied in, the University of Dhaka, has reportedly formulated an ambitious master plan to upgrade and overhaul its enormous campus. And for that to happen, the admin of DU has planned many projects over the next 15 years at a cost of Tk10,000 crore.
I’m flabbergasted to know my university administration wants to improve just the campus and not the quality of education.
DU, as the plan says, will be the first solar-powered campus, will install a rainwater harvesting system, and cover the campus in greenery. Apart from those, DU also wants to get new academic and administrative buildings, a dedicated playground for female students, a bicycle lane, a modern central library, renovate and construct more halls of residence, modernize the registrar building and medical centre, and build a multi-storey structure for Ducsu.
Oops! A full plate.
I admire ambitious people and, for that matter, also the officials who work for a certain country, corporate, or business entity. Because they are the doers; they contribute to advancing a society as well as a nation. They visualize the future and make things happen.
Dhaka University is to complete 100 years of its existence in 2021, and there’s no doubt that its infrastructure requires renovation. Recently we have seen how the university administration wanted to renovate the Teachers-Students Centre. That wasn’t a very happy episode.
The landmass that the DU enjoys in the middle of Dhaka city is amazing. I, however, would like to request the university administration to focus on a few different issues than simply improving the campus.
When we went to study at DU some 36 years ago, we had seen many of our mates who came from extremely humble financial backgrounds who passed their days in extreme hardship. However, the number of those students was very limited in those days. Surprisingly, in recent years, the number of such students has multiplied in the campus.
There are hundreds of students who go unfed day in and day out. They don’t have the means to have three square meals a day. Many have just one meal a day, some eat twice a day. I have personally experienced that different departments and faculties go door to door to many business entities of the country, requesting them to help these have-not students in the form of scholarships.
Many companies have started contributing to the lives of these students, and we must thank those entities for this noble work.
I shudder inside when I think of these boys and girls. I met a girl who told me that she didn’t have any bus fare to go to her village when her sister passed away. There are many boys and girls who try to bear their expenses by working as private tutors. I have heard experiences that these tutors go on foot when they go to teach their students in various homes across the city. They even want to save the bus fare.
Just think about it! When these children are unfed or half-fed, their nutritional level would be automatically low. And their future output would be impacted when they go into the job market.
I remember we used to receive stipends from the university in our days. I believe that still exists. The administration gave us scholarships on the basis of our scores in SSC and HSC exams. I believe this model needs to change. The authorities must find out who really needs that scholarship. And while they mull on improving the infrastructure of the campus, they must also think of feeding those poor boys and girls.
Look after your students first, before thinking of building a high-rise for Ducsu.
Having said that, I must question the role of this student organization in the lives of ordinary students. I don’t think Ducsu has played any role in my life. If this organization is just a platform to create future political leaders, I think we need to question the existence of it.
Kindly allow me to say a few words on the quality of education that the university imparts. When I had gotten admitted to DU, I was awfully dissatisfied. I had a dream for education that would free my mind and lead me to know more. On the contrary, I found that our curriculum was meant for cocooning us into a bunch of frogs whose aim was only to look for jobs after completing the degree. I didn’t find our teachers as motivating as they should have been in order to inspire us to seek knowledge. Very sad.
After all these years, when I meet many boys and girls, passing out from DU, in the work environment, I find the level of knowledge and skill has experienced a sorry decline. These people are even more cocooned than we were.
Now, where do we go from here? Would an overhaul of campus infrastructure save us from this plight? Would that lead us to be a better place for education? Would we be able to contribute more when the university becomes solar-powered and has a rainwater harvesting system?
I doubt that.
I believe before thinking of changing the infrastructure, we must go for a paradigm shift in improving the quality of education and the quality of lives of the students of our DU.
Ekram Kabir is a yogi, a story-teller, and a communications professional. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.