Education is a right. Although the Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh does not recognize education as a fundamental right, the Article 17 concedes education as completely free and compulsory for all children. The section (b) of the Article 17 places special emphasis on relating education to the needs of the society and developing properly trained and motivated citizens to serve those needs.
In today's Bangladesh, on the one hand, the overall economic condition of the country is getting improved along with an expansion of educational facilities in the country with time, but on the other hand, our education system is proving to be a failure in meeting the constitutionally recognized 'needs of the country'. Today, country's educated youths are in fact facing unprecedented challenges to their future. Such a situation can undoubtedly not bring good results for any country in the long run. In addition, widespread frustration and moral decay among today's youths are seen as a major obstacle to building a just society in the country.
Although the facilities of formal education have increased a lot in Bangladesh recently, the number of exemplary and pioneering teachers with a wide acceptance among their students as their role models in our education sector is getting negligible with time. But only an ideal and visionary teacher can sow the seeds of knowledge and morality among the tender-hearted students; and this is exactly the place where a void is slowly being created in our country. Because, in our education system, the shortage of those exemplary teachers is only increasing with time.
A unique general example of how education can be turned into a social, cultural and moral movement in the post-independence era of Bangladesh has been created by Professor Amir Ahmed Chowdhury Ratan, widely known as 'Ratan Da', a prominent educationist, cultural and sports personality and pioneer of social movement in Bangladesh. This exceptionally brilliant and multi-talented personality was born on 28 November 1943 in Mymensingh. Although his original home was in Feni district, but his birth, upbringing and works- all were based in Mymensingh. The soil, people and culture of Mymensingh seemed to be an integral part of his existence. His thoughts, consciousness and dedication- everything seemed to occupy particularly Mymensingh and at a larger extent the whole country and her arts, culture, sports and the people.
Professor Amir Ahmed Chowdhury Ratan graduated in History from the University of Dhaka in 1962 and had taught at Gauripur College, Mymensingh from 1964 to 1983. He was also the acting principal of the college from 1974 to 1976. Meanwhile, in 1959, he along with his friends formed 'Mymensingh Mukul Fauj' club on his special initiative. The club played a huge role in the world of sports and culture in Mymensingh, the then East Pakistan and also in the post-independence Bangladesh. Under the leadership of Ratan Da, Mukul Fauj made significant contributions to the world of sports, music, scouting and creative arts. Today's renowned Indian musician Mitali Mukherjee is one of the discoveries of Mukul Fauj.
Mukul Niketan School was established in 1970 with the relentless efforts of Professor Amir Ahmed Chowdhury Ratan from the Mukul Fauj club with the motto of 'Satya-Sundor-Samya-Shikhsha' to ensure the right of education for the deprived and poorer section of the society. The journey of Mukul Niketan, from the days of small huts to today's remarkable infrastructure was only possible because of the immense patience, exemplary discipline and diligent efforts by Ratan Da and his colleagues. Today, with more than 180 teachers and over 6000 students, it is one of the largest schools in the country. The school places special emphasis on discipline, physical education, sports, literature and cultural activities besides educating the students and making them competent, visionary, dutiful, virtuous, self-reliant, humble and courageous.
Since the 1980s, Mukul Niketan School, under the able leadership of Professor Amir Ahmed Chowdhury Ratan, has been making a significant contribution to the formation of an ethical nation by imparting education in a very conducive environment as well as inculcating culture, sports and social service among the students. In many incidences the students of this school achieved remarkable results in the field of sports, like, cricket, football or chess; scouting, debating, essay competition at the national level.
Led by Ratan Da, students of the school volunteered providing emergency relief and healthcare services among thousands of affected people by floods, cyclones, etc., while almost in all major cultural (such as Nazrul Janmojayanti in Trishal) and sports events at the national and regional levels, Ratan Da's team was always ready to provide the much needed voluntary services. In addition to imparting good education by highly qualified and trained teachers, the school has been imparting the invaluable teachings of patriotism, social awareness, sense of responsibility, punctuality and affection for human life among the students from the last five decades. Inspired by the thoughts and learnings of Mukul Niketan, innumerable students are contributing with great reputation in different parts of the country and abroad in their chosen professional fields. The credit goes to Professor Amir Ahmed Chowdhury Ratan, the man with a great vision.
The life of this extraordinary man was never easy at all. Obstacles came time and again in his way, but his honesty, determination and unquestionable love for the nation made things never much difficult for him to achieve his goals. The unique 'cultural movement' formed in Mymensingh under his leadership during the anti-Ayub Khan movement in the late 1950s and early '60s, strong organizational leadership during the country's liberation war time and anti-dictatorship movement of the 1990s- all these seem like fairy tales for many. A total of 6 close relatives, including his grandfather were martyred during the Liberation War. His younger brother, late Major General Amin Ahmed Chowdhury (Piyaru) was awarded the title of 'Bir Bikram' by the Government of Bangladesh for his immense heroism during the country's Liberation War, while his elder brother, late Aziz Ahmed Chowdhury (Golap), former president of Feni District Awami League, was known as a fearless patriot and a selfless-ideal politician in the country. Until the last day of his life, he was the chairman of Feni district council.
Professor Amir Ahmed Chowdhury Ratan left his beloved family, thousands of students, long term colleagues from the fields of education, sports, culture, and social services and countless admirers on 15 October 2020 for his eternal abode. This 28 November was the 78th birth anniversary of Professor Amir Ahmed Chowdhury Ratan. On this special day, with profound respect and love, we remember the life and numerous immortal creations of this visionary teacher and brilliant organizer.
The writer was a beloved student of Professor Amir Ahmed Chowdhury Ratan