News update
  • BD, South Asian students under attack by violent mobs in Kyrgyzstan     |     
  • Woman, son among four die as lightning strikes in Narsingdi     |     
  • BD, Indian, Pakistani students under attack by mobs in Kyrgyzstan     |     
  • Journalists don’t need to enter BB, every info on website: Quader     |     
  • Leverage national consensus to sign basin-based water treaties     |     

Politics in BD Varsities should be confined to lecture halls

Columns 2024-04-16, 12:37am

sir-frank-peters-tie-186f090f3e95290831a60a46cd54a59b1713206259.jpg

Sir Frank Peters



Universities, like holy mosques or the Supreme Court, should be completely free of political influence. Universities worldwide are perceived to harvest the pick of the crop in education farming – the future leaders in industry and commerce, and even in politics – and not the production of misguided despicable bad behaviour

Sir Frank Peters

Student politics in Bangladesh universities are dark and ugly, and don’t speak well for the political leaders within the university campuses, its membership, or the political parties they represent.

Nor do they enhance the image of Bangladesh on the world stage. They’re more akin to mob rule rather than exercising and promoting democracy and the wellbeing of fellow students.

I still carry horrific visions from years back of university students roaming the sacred grounds of learning brandishing machetes, guns, bamboo sticks, plastic hose pipes, baseball bats, and other implements to instill fear, and engaging in bloody clashes aimed to disfigure fellow students who held opposite views.

There have also been some horrific incidences like the murder of Abrar Fahad, in 2019, a second-year student at BUET.

I asked then, and I’ll ask again, WHY? You might expect that sort of horrific bullying and misbehaviour from Hitler’s brown shirts, but never in the hallowed halls of learning at a university in an alleged democratic society.

As Massum Billah, president of the English Teachers’ Association of Bangladesh, wrote: “The principal purpose of a university is to conduct research and contribute to the welfare of the state and humanity.”

In a country that owes its independence in large – and the saving of its mother tongue¬¬¬ – to the once glorious history of student politics, one tends to expect better, more intellectual behaviour.

Some university political leaders seem to think that they, and they alone, own the sole and exclusive rights to democracy and seemingly have coined their own brand. It’s democracy if you agree with them. It isn’t, if you don’t. The other side of their coin says: “you’re either with us or against us.”

Universities, like holy mosques or the Supreme Court, should be completely free of political influence. Universities worldwide are perceived to harvest the pick of the crop in education farming – the future leaders in industry and commerce, and even in politics – and not a manufacturing plant and go-down for misguided despicable bad behaviour.

Politics as a career

Studying politics in university as a career subject is an honourable pursuit. That is a career choice. Being force-fed brown-shirt politics is something else again.

Universities are perceived to be the highest echelons of learning, meeting places, and incubators of great minds specifically to be enhanced and nurtured with knowledge.

The privileged rich of Bangladesh send their children to universities overseas as an investment, to protect them from such bad influence, to side step the stupidity that’s common at some, and to foster and promote connections that will benefit them and their families in the future.

University education anywhere isn’t cheap and not affordable by all. There are literally thousands of relatively poor Bangladeshi families who work exceptionally long hours in all weathers and unpleasant conditions to send their children to one.

They scrimp and save, and do without necessities continuously to put aside whatever they can to ensure their children receive an university education, and a chance to enjoy a better life than they. It’s unadulterated parental love¬ – the backbone of an Allah inspired loving family.

No parent wants their children to experience and go through the struggles, sadness, heartbreak, and pain they did. So they make all the sacrifices humanly possible to prevent that from happening. They live THROUGH their children: their pain, their happiness, and their successes, and FOR their children.

Non-stop parental work

From daylight to nightfall many work in the fields, only stopping long enough to eat the no-frills homemade tiffin. Those fortunate to have livestock attend to their cows, sheep, goats, ducks, and chickens or whatever, religiously, driven by love, and without complaint.

Rain, shine, a throbbing headache, or nasty cold doesn’t matter. Illness is a luxury they can’t afford. The work continues regardless. There’s very little time for self-pity or even for one’s self when livestock and the children demand attention and the future of their children is at stake.

Climbing into bed at midnight would be considered an early night and the following day is similar to the one before – like the Groundhog Day movie. The strenuous thankless work is on a loop, with no weekends off.

It’s a tough life and an uphill battle for low-income earners to save money enough to cover outlandish university fees and city living costs while trying to maintain good health and keep the wolves away from their own door.

Their sole source of motivation, the inspirational the vision they carry in their hearts and in their minds is of their son or daughter garbed in a graduation gown, a cute dinky little hat, and a university degree certificate neatly tucked under their arm.

That would be their greatest thrill, their lottery win, their biggest achievement, and Allah’s response to all their tear-soaked prayers.

With such a valuable, incalculable investment of heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, anxiety and prayers over the years, I doubt if they would welcome their sons or daughters squandering their time, energy, and talents being distracted from their career pursuits by becoming involved in university politics. They didn’t make incalculable sacrifices to send their beloved child to university for that.

The aches and pains in their ageing joints and muscles; and the visible scars and blisters from their hard work constantly reminds them of all the sacrifices they’ve made to put their child through university.

All students given such loving family support owe their loyalty, love, and respect to their parents and no one else; and are morally bound to engage in sincere study. Those who engage in frivolous pursuits and do not study should feel profound shame and guilt for wasting the precious hard-earned meagre family resources and for not holding-up their share of the family “teamwork”.  How hard is it to study compared to ‘real’ work in the fields? Wake up!

The obligation of a university student is twofold. One is to themselves. The other is to display their love, respect, and appreciation to their supportive loving parents for providing them the rare once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

No outside influence – political or otherwise – should interfere or be allowed to distract them from successfully completing that noble mission. Politics in universities is corporal punishment in disguise at varsity level.

Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, humanitarian, human rights activist, Honorary Member of the Bangladesh Freedom Fighters, and a foreign friend of Bangladesh.