Poet Muhammad Samad prefers liberal outlook over funds for improving DU
[Continued from last issue...]
Poet Dr Muhammad Samad is also an educator and social scientist. He has served as the director of Social Work and Research Institute, University of Dhaka; adjunct faculty at Winona State University, USA; vice-chancellor at University of Information and Technology, Dhaka. In this month of May he is to complete his first full year as the pro-vice chancellor of University of Dhaka. He has shared his thoughts about the present status of the university and his personal experiences as a part of the university administration to The Daily Observer.
For a long time now governments rather than focusing on education, research and innovation have been trying to keep university campuses free from violence through their appointed Vice-Chancellors. In the meantime the ruling parties have been effectively controlling the campus with their student fronts. Your position in this regard...
The question is very significant. This situation has resulted from consistent military rules and unnecessary politicization. During the Pakistani Era, military ruler Ayub Khan and his provincial governor in present day Bangladesh Abdul Monem Khan introduced this system. But even during Pakistani Period, interference or influence of the then state sponsored students' outfit, NSF was not evident in the backdrop of Language Movement of 1952, Education Movement of 1962, movement for Bangabandhu's historic Magna Carta for Bangalees- the six-points, movement for freeing Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from imprisonment in the Agartala Conspiracy Case. But this phenomenon of state's student outfits interfering unjustly to keep campuses under control in favour of ruling parties became common after the mass murdering of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with his family and the military rule and coup, counter-coup that followed this heinous act. And the impetus on controlling universities by means of student outfits with support from vice-chancellors rather than on education, research and innovation is nothing but simply a sign of vain surrender before the less-educated and opportunity seekers.
But there is no more military rule and even the DUCSU election has been held and yet the roles of vice-chancellors in public universities of the country do not seem to change...
Look, I always say that-these days people are becoming solvent not honest, cunning not wise and special not earnest. Love for wealth is draining down our ideals to the gutter. Some vice-chancellors have committed deeds the government might never have dreamt of or is feeling ashamed of. I want unflinching patriotism among people not lookout for immediate interests. Students themselves have to honour wisdom, righteousness; they have to have more love and care for labourers, farmers and the poor and working class. We have very recently witnessed gleaming evidences of such qualities in the form of movements for the trial of War Criminals at Ganajagaran Mancha, reforming quota system in public service recruitment, road safety. However experience tells me that, such movements also warrant caution against opportunity seekers. All in all, in my opinion the present government led by daughter of Bangabandhu Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, do not need to control campuses by means of their student outfit.
President Md Abdul Hamid criticised the evening course system prevailing in the universities terming such practice as a mere 'business for certificates'. How would you like to receive his comments?
Honourable President has deep devotion and great far-sight for higher education, for which I salute him. Due to emphasis on students of evening courses, the mainstream students in public universities that is to say, students from daytime are being deprived. For similar reasons, in the DUCSU election all the contesting panels had pledged to close down evening courses in their manifesto. If varieties of evening post-graduate courses are not monitored through effective measures our public universities that run with taxes from the general people may sadly become barren lands for producing newer researches, knowledge, invention-innovation and even skilled human resource. In the global innovation index Bangladesh is placed at the bottom among the seventeen Asian countries ranked. Thus I want to emphasise more on bringing forth new research, knowledge and innovations for keeping this country bought off blood on track with the rest of the world.
In the University of Dhaka Budget, research is pretty neglected. How will you ensure this if you do not get adequate funds?
It cannot be denied that in our annual budget we reserve very less for research. On the contrary, if I may give example, the Chinese tech-giant Huawei spent 1 lac and 29 thousand crore taka for research in 2018 and the amount is twice as much the budget of entire education sector in Bangladesh. But a word of hope is that the government and many international agencies are eager to invest in newer research projects in this country of big population to keep it on track with the world. Our Prime Minister is also consistently urging concerned parties in this regard.
Her advisor for Science and Technology, Sajeeb Wazed Joy on a regular basis has also been inspiring the young generation for new innovations. As a result of these, all the citizens including the marginal farmers are enjoying the benefits of Digital Bangladesh and the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 orbiting in the space. There are certain technology-based new departments in the University of Dhaka like Robotics and Mechatronics Engineering, Nuclear Engineering which are opening doors for new research. Further hopes for the field of research can be found in the Bangabandhu Overseas Scholarship that starts from this year for the teachers of University of Dhaka to allow them to seek higher education and research works in renowned universities of the world. This would in turn improve the status of research work here and contribute for the development of the rest of the country.
Now let us move towards the final segment. Would you tell us, in your opinion, what the major problems of administration at University of Dhaka are, as you have witnessed them during your yearlong experience as a pro-VC here?
In a developing country like ours all the institutions have a lot of problems, one cannot isolate one problem from the other. Still according to my experience, I can state the following problems- 1. Weak administrative system and lack of teamwork, 2. Crisis of residential facilities for students and academic buildings, 3. Lack of eagerness for research because of easy-income found in evening courses, apathy among teachers of one or two institutes or faculties for writing and seeking Phd and higher degrees in developed countries, 4. Usage of Bangla language for education in Departments of other languages like Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Sanskrit and in Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies, 5. Opening departments and institutes without planning and providing the same degree from different departments or institutes.
The solution to these would be...
The only way out is liberal mindset, big dreams and courageous efforts. You have to keep in mind that I have never uttered a word about crisis of funds since all the family members of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the President and Prime Minister and everyone else have special concern for the University of Dhaka.