Why should Bangladesh care about the academia with respect to her future? Or can Bangladesh survive and prosper in the long run without concentrating on knowledge production and dissemination? Isn't it shameful for the nation that the teachers are on the streets to demand their rights and justice? Isn't it reprehensible that the dignity of the academics in the 8th pay scale has been degraded to a larger extent? Shouldn't the government of Bangladesh concentrate on the future of the country rather than concentrating on narrowly defined short term interest of some particular communities? Isn't it ironic that the university teachers are poorly paid when they should be paid much higher?
In this 21st century, knowledge based society has been an indispensable component of prosperity and continued development for a nation. But by neglecting the university circles can Bangladesh build up a knowledge based society? Or can Bangladesh sustain her prosperity in the long run without being able to establish such knowledge based society?
The role of the universities and the academics is beyond description to the creation of Bangladesh or her continued development. It is said that university teachers are the conscience of a nation. And the output of the universities, the graduates, play crucial role in the national development of the country. Against such a backdrop, it is quite unacceptable and insulting that the dignity of university teachers has been degraded in the 8th pay scale which needs to be revised and a unique pay scale needs to be introduced for them.
It is pertinent to mention here how university teachers have been degraded in the 8th pay scale. Previously, selection grade professors and secretaries were equally treated as Grade 1, but the bureaucrats have already created two more positions, ie senior secretary and cabinet secretary. And after the withdrawal of selection grade, the selection grade professors will be downgraded as number 4 grade while the secretaries will be in grade 1, 2, and 3. While selection grade professors and the secretaries were in the same grade in the previous pay scale, this 8th pay scale has created huge discrimination.
The dignity of university teachers has also been degraded through the absurd comments of Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith as he told the press that university teachers were protesting due to the lack of knowledge. The minister also termed university teachers as 'corrupt'. Are the university teachers corrupt or the bureaucrats? Bangladesh had been champion in corruption for several times. Was that due to the corruption of the university teachers or for that of the bureaucrats of the government? Such questions need to be addressed.
If university teachers are not properly treated, and cared, what is the future of this country? We need to realize that to make the country a prosperous one we need to make sure that the quality of education is upheld, which will produce good human beings. And the government needs to spend enough resources in this regard. We understand the resource constraints of the country but there is asymmetric resource distribution in various sectors which needs to be reformed. This asymmetric resource allocation will eventually be proven counter-productive for the country.
It is needless to mention that university teachers play significant role in nation building through knowledge production and dissemination (teaching). They mould the character and personality of the students, show the right directions which contributes immensely to the overall progress of the nation. Through perseverance, hard work, sacrifice and love, teachers transfer knowledge from generation to generation. In fact, flourishing national development and society through knowledge is the sole contribution of the teachers. And knowledge cannot be acquired if it is not sought and received through the help of teachers. That is why, it is often said that, 'knowledge received without a teacher's guidance, can be compared to a blind man walking without his/her stick'. Hence, to survive as a nation, there is no alternative to having a strong academia. It's high time we upgraded the status and prestige of academia in our society.
But contrarily, it is demonstrated in the recent budget of the country that education and health is the most neglected sector whereas the sector like defence is prioritized from time to time. Even the defence budget is passed and kept as secret though the security challenges of the country is internal rather than external. It is quite unfortunate that in a country like Bangladesh military sector gets more priority while the country faces a number of internal security challenges. This asymmetric resource distribution needs to be removed.
Bangladesh has huge potentials to graduate from a lower middle-income country to a high-income one within the next decade which has been foreseen by many in the world. But until or unless the country focuses on her education, its quality, sustainable development is not possible for the country.
Therefore, for the long-term prosperity and interests of the country, there is no alternative for Bangladesh to care about education, especially higher education. And I think that education sector must be the topmost priority sector of any country since education is regarded as the best weapon for change, prosperity and development as argued by Nelson Mandela. This was also understood by our great leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who honoured public university teachers in different ways in his life and 1973 Act of four prime universities is one of its manifestations.
It can also be mentioned that education is the only sector which is involved in knowledge production. Therefore, my earnest request to our honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is to think about the academia and the future of the country. At the same time, while it is the duty of the state to take proper care of the education sector, the academia also needs to make sure that they carry out the duties mandated on them by practising academic excellence.
Md Shariful Islam is Lecturer of International Relations,
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