DU: Why cannot be succeeded with Covid-19 diagnostic laboratory?
Dhaka University is one of the largest public universities in Bangladesh. A lot of unprecedented history developed in this campus and many legends had their academic lessons/degrees from such a beautiful and well-recognized university. The most important role that this university has been playing for each of the students is that how to sustain in a life with untoward situation! This all comes from university dormitories to classes where students cope with unlimited challenges to maintain their normal academic progress.
Most but not all students depend on their family support, or become self-dependent while attending their programs. Even though majority of the students are ready to take challenges to any direction, Dhaka University, like any other public academic institutions in Bangladesh is severely struggling to move forward. Historically, this is largely contributed by the dominant student (not focused on academics) politics. This particular branch of politics is vaguely laid out to serve for the student's welfare. Unfortunately, the results of student-driven politics is extremely violent and acts as a big obstacle to any success of any student in any academic place.
Under the current Covid-19 crisis, Dhaka University had initiated to serve the whole nation by providing student volunteers at different diagnostic laboratories. From the very beginning, Bangladesh has been struggling with the Covid-19 testing, mostly due to the lack of enough laboratories and the experts who can run the labs. Graduate Biochemist Association (GBA) has taken an initiative to dive into this crisis by providing graduates who were trained in running Covid-19 testing throughout the country.
Unfortunately, this journey was not smooth as it took several weeks to establish a successful dialogue between the authority of university and the representative of Health officials. Finally, when the dream came true and all those students simply put their life in danger by serving in the diagnostic labs and helping out the country by providing real-time test-results, Dhaka University has now stopped operating their own campus diagnostics lab. As of now, 52 Covid-19 diagnostic laboratories are currently under operation nationwide. Dhaka University has given 14 PCR machine to help out the country for this diagnosis purpose.
Why can't we reach a consensus & help each other?
Culturally, Bangladesh is rich among all countries in South Asia. When I say culturally, I indicate the nature of our hospitality, readiness to becoming friend and helping poor or needy people under any difficult time. These all remain as a part of past days--now things have been changed, people jump on media, want to be famous as much as possible within a short time. If all those achievements are not to be proud of, then we are running against each other based on fictions not facts.
DU authorities failed to negotiate with the health department to acquire minimum supports to run their campus lab. The question is why DU never envisioned about a lab, what essential things are needed and what would be the short-term goal of this. DU authorities is rich with so many PhDs and experienced teachers either directly experienced with Biological sciences or with administration. On top of that so many young fresh graduates dedicated their time to help people. Does this adhere to our culture? Why DU unable to create an example to the nation? Instead of making a good example now DU has made a BAD example!
Public universities are fully supported by the govt money including salaries, research (may not be optimal). DU has their own resources I believe as part of enriching the financial demands. Why DU can't run this lab for next month (if that costs 20,00000 BDT)? There are so many questions that we would not know the answers. There is no time to haggle with the authority, it is the time to help people.
Why govt representative is unable to fulfill the DU request?
Since COVID-19 epidemic begun, govt officials have successfully proven how much back-dated they are, especially the IEDCR and health department. Most of those high-ranked people never been prepared for any crisis at any minimum level. Even they were not prepared, they did not seek help from any experts early, which could have made the situation a little better. This is not due to lack of resources but largely due to lack willingness, honesty and dedication. Until the Prime Minister calls out specific people, things remain on hold as if those don't belong to anyone.
Insider and outsider of DU family:
Like many of the past and present graduates, I am honored to be the part of DU family, as I spent significant amount of time living in the campus, as a student or a faculty. This part of life has shown me so many red tapes, frustration, anxiety but could not stopped completely. As I mentioned, DU has its own life and only graduates can feel that. Unfortunately, NOT all graduates!
This is because the same graduates become faculty members and slowly losing all achievements and dreams by falling into this dark part of admin network. Therefore, being a graduate of DU and later a faculty one could easily feel double amount of pain. DU- administration is composed of teachers/non-teachers, but teachers are the majority in terms of making decisions in any direction. Unfortunately, within the teachers, color coding as classified by the national politics influences their moral duties and it results in lots of deviation from truth and honesty.
It all starts with teacher's well-fare committee where significant numbers of teachers involved with national politics which explicitly dividing teachers even against a common interest or goal. This effect continues all over the campus starting from teacher recruitment where often times fare assessment is not done and result in more polarized new teachers. Ultimately, all basic needs as supposed to be given to a faculty, have lost the track and sold out in exchange of signing up of a specific group/color of teachers. As a result, combination of student-politics and teacher politics pushing really hard in all academic institutions downward because of same version of activities became the role model in the country.
Research activities are of less priority at public universities:
Since COVID-19 hit, every countries realize the importance of basic and advance research. While Bangladesh is already far behind in this track, Covid-19 hit the culture even harder than ever. Only a few scientists in the country actively engaged in research either by securing external grant or local govt funding. All public universities teachers and researchers are recruited against permanent position and research is not listed in their job responsibilities. Research is not obligatory.
Thus, fresh PhDs after returning home, lose interest on research, mostly due to a network of nonfunctional administration, which never encourages scientist but setting up road blocks on their way. In order to get involved in active research, PhD is not enough, faculty members need to do hands-on research in foreign labs, build collaborative projects, send out students to different labs, develop ideas, arrange scientific seminars and conferences inside and outside the country.
All of these essential needs never flourish because of set of blocks that DU admin sets by saying after completion of PhD, teacher needs to go back to the class. Their understanding of science is poor and never got updated. Practicing science is a team work among all multidisciplinary groups and sharing ideas and helping each other are the only strategies in order to complete a task with distinction.
If this unauthorized road trip continues, neither DU nor any public universities will see the light. Instead, we alleither being silent or doing hard work responsible for the damage. It is our obligation to work together for restoring values but not jumping on random ideas for media coverage.
The writer is ex-faculty, DU.
He writes from the USA.