September 2, 2012 / The Daily Star
Photo: Dhaka Tribune

It was one of those days when rain beats the heat off Dhaka that I saw them. They were in numbers, in colours, in anxiety. They were students who were supposed to be in a classroom somewhere, yet they were on the streets. And at that moment, you knew something was just not right.

The recent uprising at BUET followed shortly by the protests against banning of medical admission tests has made the headlines at every media outlet, both home and abroad. Students were carrying placards bearing messages as opposed to books, singing songs of resilience and claiming their rights as opposed to a heated debate on Marxism or recent music numbers on radio. As two of the top academic institutions in the country stood stagnant, the government and opposition party were clueless, almost bemusing and indifferent to the chaos that was unfolding. In anywhere in the world, it would seem like a miracle that students were out of classes for so long, yet here, it seemed next to casual.

You’d think the ‘joke’ ends there. A recent news report from a major television channel showed Chhatra League breaking into the Vice Chancellor’s Office in BUET, in response to which, the management at BUET filed a second police case against the students and teachers of BUET. Funny story, during media interviews, these members of Chhatra League claiming to be BUET students said they were from the Department of Commerce (?!) They also harassed the actual student protestors by taking away their microphones and leading michhils asking students to forfeit their protests. Now you know, something is really wrong.

BUET has been shut down for over 44 days although an official announcement ‘resumed classes’ from 25th August onwards. Medical admission test dates are uncertain with recent HSC graduates swinging between odds about their GPAs and admission preparations. The common people, civil society, journalists and almost everyone with a Facebook account have had their say. Interestingly though, in the chaos of how the HSC examinations are not standardized with GPAs often incoherent with the students’ actual performances and debates on the ‘fourth subject’ factor, we forgot to mention how the banning medical admission tests to only allow high GPA holders from HSC examination completely removes the prospect of A’levels and Alim graduates from applying to medical schools. How can a democratic government operate even after completely forgetting a leg of its education infrastructure bewilders me. How does a nation operate by forcing some of its best students to leave the country to get an education and blames the same students for being too ‘Westernized’ or of brain drain is again beyond me.

It’s strange how students have actually stayed calm and gone through the repeated injustice. While the government and opposition party is fumbling about their personal agenda, high school graduates are glued to television channels that might as well determine their fate. In a South Asian country that is still dominated by the conventional doctor-engineer-lawyer career bracket, having the former two nearly crippling down has left millions uncertain and frustrated. To what gains they deserve this is another debate, and frankly, not one that can ever resolve the futile, power-hungry and ridiculous decisions of our political players.

While the government has finally decided to lift the ban of medical admission tests and removed the Pro Vice Chancellor of BUET from his position, protests are still going on. The Vice Chancellor has still not been removed, leaving teachers and students as agitated as they were before. As a country that is largely influenced by a proactive civil society, questions must be raised as to how any of this makes sense. How can anything operate if the next generation of leaders spend most of their times fighting for their basic rights and offering logic to administrations and governments? To what degree must we tolerate corruption when the security and sanctity of young people are at stake? How can student bodies function at the violent dominance of political ‘youth’ wings? Some say we are kids making an unnecessary fuss. I’d say, more often than not, we are forced to be ‘adults’ just to ensure we are holding onto the shreds of democracy we have fought for and will be fighting for it. Seems like it.

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