Abrar Fahad, a second year student of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), was brutally beaten to death by some of his fellow students in a medieval style with all the muscle and power of today's so-called student leaders. The carnage of beating the 21-year- old student of the university with hockey sticks and other lethal objects went on from midnight till dawn until he died because of severe pain and internal hemorrhage.
The gruesome killing of Abrar in such a ghastly manner has shocked and saddened the whole nation. It is an act of barbaric insanity and we, as ordinary citizens of the country, have no words to express our sorrow and anger. We have no words to condemn the incident. We only keep ourselves asking what age we are in and what is our future? If this can happen in one of the highest seats of learning of the country, what is the future of this nation? It is high time the conscience of the whole nation woke up.
Good that neither the Government nor the University authority nor the student community of the country showed any lack of initiative in dealing with the situation in its true perspective. The students of BUET, Dhaka University and several other Universities across the country instantly reacted to the situation and took to street. The students of BUET have declared suspension of all academic activities until the real culprits were brought to justice.
The government on its part is doing everything possible to bring peace and harmony in the university campuses. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has forthright ordered for arrest of all those who were involved in the mayhem irrespective of their party affiliation.
The law enforcing agencies have already arrested 21 of the accused, mostly members of Chhatra league and assured framing of charge sheet against them in the quickest possible time. Law minister Anisul Huq has assured quick trial of them. The Chhatra league on its part has expelled them from the orgnisation.
The Vice Chancellor (VC) of BUET has promptly announced complying with those demands of the student community of the university that are within the university's jurisdiction including banning of student and teacher politics in the campus for the time being and clearing the dormitories of outsiders. It is expected that the students will have full trust on the VC as well the government, call off their movement and go back to classes sooner rather than later.
It is now time for the government as well as the civil society including those associated with the education sector of the country to consider this incident as a wake-up call and sit together to find out means to clean the educational institutions from demons and ensure a good and healthy atmosphere in the campus so that the students can pursue their studies uninterrupted.
According to an UNESCO report, 23 per cent students at our schools are subject to bullying which leaves a negative impact on the children's mental development. Bullying, ragging and similar other negative activities at educational institutions must stop without delay.
Banning of student politics in the universities for good may not be a good idea for the country. One must not forget the historic role played by the student organisations, especially of the universities and colleges from time to time for the welfare of the student community. One must not forget the historic role played by the students in the various movements from the Language Movement of the fifties to the education reform of the sixties to the liberation war of 1971.
Yes, student politics may remain suspended until educational institutions are cleared of hoodlums, extortionists and unwanted persons, until leadership of the organisations are taken over by meritorious and of clean image students of the institutions who will work for the welfare of students and guard against all sorts of evil designs from inside or outside.
It is high time the policy makers had a serious look into the whole affairs of the education sector including its structural reform from the primary to the higher level. They got to find out why even 25 per cent of the students getting GPA-5 in SSC and HSC exams cannot secure the minimum marks in the admission tests required for admission in the universities. They got to find out why even Dhaka University cannot find its position even among one thousand top ranking universities of the world.
They got to re-think whether taking so many public exams from the primary to intermediate level was at all necessary for overall improvement of the standard of education in the country. Many of our educationists think that it was an absolutely unnecessary, time-consuming and expensive exercise to put the students into the public exams at such a tender age as of class five. It should be done away with forthright. They might sit for their first public exam after class eight as envisaged in the 2010 education policy.
It might as well not be a bad idea to seriously think of introducing only two public exams from primary to intermediate level, one after class eight and another after class twelve thereby saving time for the students to attend more classes than remaining busy with the exams.
The last but not least is to go for a thorough overhaul/reform of our education system, especially in the primary and secondary level right from syllabus, curriculum, text books to infrastructure of the educational institutions.
Capt. Hussain Imam is a retired merchant navy officer