As Chancellor of Universities, President Abdul Hamid has repeatedly exhorted educational institutions to focus on quality and time befitting education instead of focusing merely on the business side of things. And his usual messages when university delegations call on him encourage extracurricular activity, out of syllabus focus and most important, research.
That he doesn’t mince words is just as well known from his days as an active politician through his chequered days as Speaker of Jatiya Sangshad. However some of his recent comments are commensurate with the general feelings of discontent that simmer in the public domain. After wryly lamenting the fact that he doesn’t have occasion to vent his views in public save for convocations, he came down heavily on university teachers for lobbying for positions to the extent of having to enlist the support of student bodies. His message was clear. Such acts reduce the awe and respect that students have for the teaching community thereby breaking an essential chain of command. Bangladesh hasn’t reached the stage as in the West whereby students are on first name basis with teachers and yet mutual respect and reverence coexist with the bonhomie. That teachers are being accused of such misdemeanours by no less than the Chancellor means the head of state is fully up to date with what may indicate a social breakdown. Yet what can be expected in a society where teachers are increasingly being appointed on considerations other than merit leading the University Grants Commission to state that future teacher intake will be restricted to those with PhD degrees. That is a welcome idea but it still doesn’t do away with the ‘other’ considerations. The ease with which academicians are confined to their rooms speaks of an undesirable state of affairs.
The President expressed his anguish at the state of siege that the countrymen have been held under with the onion crisis suggesting, as many have, that a month long boycott of the vegetable will be most effective in bringing down prices. An Awami League Member of Parliament was unusually vocal in being critical on a talk show wherein he blamed sordid inefficiency in management of the situation, Besides blaming unnamed quarters close to the government for the debacle. He was just as vocal at the mishandling of the new Roads Act that he rightly claimed, the benefits of which were never properly explained to the transport workers. Given the complex nature of the Act and its significant implications, he was spot on. Currently we are in a situation where the Act is in place but orders for its implementation haven’t been forthcoming. The result has been a free for all on the roads reminiscent of what matters were like before.
Perhaps the most frustrated statement of the President came when addressing University students he actually said food adulterers should be publicly beaten up. As head of state he has aptly reflected public opinion but surely he could not have wanted to support the practice of taking the law into one owns hands. Nonetheless he has touched on another aspect of the social fabric that is being fast torn apart. There are government institutions to address all of these maladies. That they don’t work is a matter of governance concern.
A communications and regulatory affairs specialist, Mahmudur Rahman has worked as head of function with British American Tobacco Bangladesh, Robi and served as the CEO of Bangladesh Cricket Board.