Most of us know that nationwide strikes (locally known as “hartals”), a widely used political tool by opposition parties of all beliefs and ideologies, do our country more harm than good.
Much has been said about how hartals take away the lives of many innocent people, injure hundreds and cause significant damage to the overall economy of the country.
A recent study by the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a leading chamber of business organisations in the country, has shown that approximately Tk16bn is lost by the country’s businesses for every day of hartal shutdown.
But sadly enough, little has been said about how hartals are adversely affecting the education sector of the country – not only at the primary and secondary levels of education, but also at the tertiary level.
Normally, tertiary level education includes every education after the end-of-school board exam HSC (Higher Secondary Certificate), or anything equivalent to that exam, and will include all sorts of diploma education, bachelors, masters and PhD programmes offered by the country’s universities and university colleges.
There are hundreds of thousands of students and teachers who belong to this level of education in the country. Unfortunately, there has been little, if any, study or research on how much political turbulence is taking its toll on this sector.
These students, that make up a large part of our population, is continuously disregarded, when studies are done that determine the effect of hartals on the nation.
Being a teacher at a university myself, I fell victim of this situation – having to conduct, like most other people belonging to this field, makeup classes, makeup exams on weekends and having to live with extreme uncertainty, which has consequently brought a lot of stress.
I am no psychologist or doctor, but it is common knowledge that increased stress levels can gradually lead to other health problems.
I found it extremely disturbing and illogical that political parties would “abstain” from calling hartals on board exam (including the SSC and HSC) days alone, as if it was “alright” to call for strikes on other days, when some other students might have their exams.
A few days back, when a lot of hartals were being called, I myself had to schedule my final examinations on days of HSC exams, so as to minimise the chances of getting hartals on those days.
I would like to ask all my fellow Bangladeshi brothers and sisters who are actively involved in politics, if a university graduate’s CGPA (Cumulative Grade Point Average) is affected by the extreme stress levels that he or she is having to go through, and then that person struggles to get a good job (and hence a decent, respectable position in this extremely competitive society of ours) because of that, who is to be blamed?
Life is already very stressful given the fact that students are under a lot of pressure to do well at their places of study, manage their living and lifestyle with limited amount of money and handle other social pressures.
It is important that we, as a nation, take the concerns of the students of the country seriously.
They are, undoubtedly, the future of the country. On a different note, the youth of the country, interestingly enough constitute the majority of the voters in this beloved, democratic country of ours.
Mahdin Mahboob teaches engineering at ULAB.