It is a matter of pride and joy that the University of Dhaka, popularly known as Dhaka University (DU), has completed its 100-year journey. Last Thursday, July 01, 2021, marked the centenary of the country's premier university, considered the 'highest echelon of academic excellence in the country. The moment deserves a grand and enlightened celebration with festivity. A fresh surge of deadly coronavirus, however, forces the festival to be limited to a modest level.
Nevertheless, the 100 years of Dhaka University also brings an opportunity to comprehensively and critically review the achievements and failures of the educational institution. Unfortunately, very few steps have been taken so far in this regard despite having the intellect and resources to do the task, which is a tough one. Instead, the focus is on cheap and popular events where serious works and phenomenal achievements get relegated to the back burner.
Just take the example of the university website. The site has a dedicated section on 'DU 100 years' (https://100.du.ac.bd/bn). However, one has to be disappointed by visiting the section. Except for a video, almost every 'page is under construction' under the menus like events, stories, history or memories. In today's world, when a small institution has a well-designed and highly informative website, failure to make the 'DU 100 years' site with minimum resources reflect the lack of seriousness and dedication. Again, on the main website of Dhaka University, the 'historical outline' is posted with some unacceptable errors. For example, the name of Sher-e-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Huq is misspelt as 'Fazlul Hug.' The timeline also did not mention that Barrister Sahibzada Aftab Ahmad Khan, a non-Bengali and former vice-chancellor of Aligarh University, in December 1906 proposed to set up a university in East Bengal. There is also no mention that in April 1910, Babu Annago Mohan Naha proposed to establish Dhaka University at the East Bengal and Assam Legislative Council.
It is also pathetic to find that Dhaka University authorities have failed to prepare and publish a comprehensive history of the institution. Though the university library and archive boast resourceful documents in English, Urdu and Farsi languages, there is little initiative to translate and publish some relevant documents showing the historical importance of the university. Rashed Rahom, a young researcher, has prepared an outline to compile and publish a book on the context and historical documents of the founding of Dhaka University. Other young researchers may also follow suit. Whatever they need is adequate support and guidance from eminent scholars to do the work.
Dhaka University authorities and a section of teachers and the alumnus seem happy with the university's current status. They ignore the fact that the institution has already lagged in creating and disseminating knowledge and skills required for the global competition. Many are also happy with reminiscing the glorious tradition mostly linked to students' political and resistance movements against different oppressive regimes. None of them is ready to revisit the past of the 'Oxford of the East' critically, identify the flaws in the academic and administrative arena, and restructure the institution to prepare for the unavoidable future changes. Space for open debate and discussion has already shrunk in the university, support for comprehensive research is very little. A narrow-focused centenary celebration reflects the lack of a pragmatic and long-term vision.