Monday, June 17, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Tuition in blood?

Update : 09 Mar 2015, 06:47 PM

A lot has been said over the past few days. The protest at North South University from a few days ago has created divides, with some believing that the behaviour exemplifies the spoiled, rich brat attitude that many think some students possess.

Those who are working and are travelling through the chaotic streets of Dhaka every day for their jobs are not complaining. So, who are we to complain?

Aren’t we all just a bunch of spineless children, without an ounce of work ethic or integrity? Aren’t we all cavorting throughout the city -- going to shopping malls, watching movies, and even sneaking off for romantic tete-a-tetes with our significant others?

So, how dare we possess the right to protest about going to classes? How dare we devalue the importance of an education by choosing not to attend classes? Since a lot of other universities have taken the same step. Students don’t want to risk their lives to attend university.

That does not mean they do not want to attend classes. That does not mean they do not want to learn.

What it means is that they do not wish to learn while risking their lives. They do not wish to pay their tuition in blood. The NSU authorities, along with numerous others, had planned to start resuming classes from this week.

To them, there was no alternative. Contrary to popular opinion, the average university student, especially at North South, does not want to stay home. They want to attend classes, as unrealistic as that may seem.

The real issue, then, is not that we don’t want to attend classes. Rather, it is that we do not want to attend with the risks involved. A majority of students in the university do not live in Bashundhara. For them, travelling to and from university entails a mix of CNGs, rickshaws, and buses. Some cycle but they are not the majority.

As we have no doubt seen, in lurid detail, most of the violence in the past weeks have been aimed at buses. Open the front pages of any newspaper and you are greeted with images of charred, smouldering wrecks of buses.

Even if the risk of being injured is low, slightly or otherwise (say 0.01%), is that risk justified?

There are 15,000 students in NSU. Let us say that a third of them do not travel by car and do not live nearby. That is 10,000 people putting themselves at risk every day. There are five days of class/hartal per week.

Crunching the numbers, that gives us five incidents per week. Is that a justifiable number? This does not take into account the numerous other public and private universities out there. That number becomes a lot higher if you factor those in.

None of us want a tragedy. We are all sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and none of us want to see or hear about one of our own getting injured. The cost of losing an arm or a leg is not worth it when we have not tried out other alternatives.

We are willing to work with the authorities of our university to find an amicable solution to this problem.

We have already offered suggestions to host classes online, to post materials on websites and through Facebook groups, following the example of ULAB, who have done so.

Already, three people have been injured, and if you turn on the news now, you may catch glimpses of the cocktails which had exploded outside Brac University last month.

You may, of course, say that countless scores of people are risking life and limb every day. Why are we so special? Don’t we know how much we will suffer when we have to join the work life? Doesn’t this show to the world how spoiled and uncommitted we are?

Firstly, I applaud your bravery: Working hard to feed your family and advance your career, amidst such a chaotic time should be lauded and is a supreme example of commitment.

However, organising a peaceful protest of 5,000 people to stand up for what we believe in -- that education should not be paid in blood also shows commitment.

Many people have made inaccurate and negative comments about NSU. Like everything, it has its fair share of problems, but unity is not one of them.

We will work towards a solution to this problem and, since many believe we cannot, we will succeed. 

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