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Bangladesh ruling party's student wing cripples higher education

Publication Date : 16-01-2013

 

Unrest and instability have been disrupting academic activities at different higher education institutions as activistsof Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), ruling Awami League's student wing, keep assaulting teachers apparently to muffle their voice against alleged corruption and irregularities by the authorities.

The government's piecemeal approach has compounded the crises at the institutions, instead of resolving those.

General students, meanwhile, bear the brunt of the stalemate.

Campus unrest continued unabated in the last four years of the Awami League rule with clashes between student bodies of the ruling and the opposition parties and their infighting. Dozens of public universities, medical colleges, polytechnic institutes and government colleges were hit by unrest, prompting the authorities to shut the institutions.

In a statement yesterday, the University Grants Commission (UGC) expressed deep concern over stalemate at different public universities.

The statement followed a meeting presided over by UGC Chairman Prof AK Azad Chowdhury.

Apart from students' agitations, a tendency to disrupt academic and research activities in the name of teachers' movement has been apparent in recent times, said the chairman, urging all to play a responsible role.

The number of students at tertiary level is around 2.6 million, and uninterrupted academic atmosphere is a must for their proper education, the statement added.

The educational institutions that saw unrest in the last four years include Jahangirnagar University, Jagannath University, Chittagong University, Rajshahi University, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Patuakhali Science and Technology University, Pabna University of Science and Technology, Dhaka Medical College, Sir Salimullah Medical College, Dhaka College and Khulna Medical College.

Sources say members of BCL are active in resisting anti-administration movement, as they too are involved in the alleged corruption by the authorities concerned.

At present, Islamic University (IU) in Kushtia, Begum Rokeya University in Rangpur and Dhaka Polytechnic Institute are plagued by unrest.

Academic activities at IU have been stalled since September last year, threatening severe session jam.

On September 8, teachers under the banner of IU Teachers Association went on strike demanding removal of the vice-chancellor, pro-VC and treasurer over alleged irregularities in recruitment of 132 teachers, employees and staff against 76 posts.

Although the government late last month relieved VC Prof M Alauddin and Pro-VC Prof M Kamal Uddin of their duties, the treasurer remains.

The teachers continued their agitation for removal of the treasurer. Things took a turn for the worse when a group of BCL activists on January 12 attacked a teachers' meeting with iron rods and bamboo sticks, leaving at least 30 hurt.

"The impasse will cause irreparable loss to around 12,000 students of 22 departments, as it may put the university into a year-long session jam," said a teacher preferring anonymity.

"Around 1,300 examinations of different departments have been put on hold due to the ongoing crisis," the teacher added.

Although the university was supposed to hold the admission test on November 17 last year, it failed to do so while all other public universities have almost completed the admission process.

The BCL activists in November launched another attack on the teachers' sit-in against the university administration.

Begum Rokeya University was closed indefinitely on January 10 following an attack by outsiders, reportedly BCL activists, on the teachers who have been agitating for resignation of the VC, accusing him of corruption.

Seven teachers suffered burns from battery acid when the attackers vandalised loud speakers and destroyed batteries.

Uncertainty looms large over the fate of more than 4,500 students of the university since the demonstrating teachers remain adamant about their demand. The situation may lead to severe session jam at the university, launched in 2008.

Dhaka Polytechnic Institute was shut indefinitely on January 6 after BCL activists went on the rampage and attacked teachers demanding pass marks for two students. The activists vandalised several rooms and furniture and swooped on the teachers at a meeting.

The institute plunged into chaos repeatedly due to the clashes in the last four years.

On the prevailing situation, the UGC chairman on Monday told The Daily Star that earlier, campus unrest was caused mostly by students, but now teachers are also getting involved in it.

"Certainly, the teachers will have logical demands and they will protest wrongdoings, but their way of protest should be different.

"Please stay away from anything that disrupts academic activities because it affects lives of innocent students," he said, calling upon the teachers to inform the UGC enquiry committees so that they can make proper recommendations to the government.

For the students, he said, "Whatever institution you [students] belong to, refrain from doing such activities that create anarchy."

Prof Azad added they would request the government to take stern action against troublemaking students irrespective of their political affiliations.

The UGC chairman did not rule out the possibility of political instigation behind campus unrest.

 

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