Following the protests by teachers and students of Jahanghirnagar University against the alleged corruption of VC Farzana Islam, violence erupted on the campus after Chhatra League swooped on the protesters. To control the situation, the authority has shut down the university. The Business Standard peers into the issue through the eyes of professors Dr Amena Mohsin, and Dr Susmita Chakrabarty.
We must rid ourselves of party-affiliated politics
Dr Amena Mohsin
Professor, International Relations, University of Dhaka
It is hard to find a way out of the crises the universities are now engulfed in so long we fail to bring major structural changes to the functionalities of our educational institutions.
To begin with, teachers' affiliation to certain political parties in public universities is wreaking havoc with how universities are run and the standard of education they are able to maintain. The unholy alliance between politics and pedagogy has taken the toll on the students. This is what we have witnessed at Jahangirnagar University where the tumultuous events of the last seven days have brought to the surface issues that need immediate attention.
It is horrendous yet true to witness that some of the teachers in charge of administrations are using students for their petty interests. Hence, student leaders go to extreme limits to assault both students and teachers alike.
So, what is toxic in student politics is its affiliation with party politics. Though student politics in Bangladesh had a glorious past, the practice of healthy student politics does not exist any longer. In the name of student politics, students' affiliation to the political parties is actually destabilising the university campuses.
What sort of incentives students are getting offered to go to such length, the audacities they often display by assaulting their teachers, are a matter of grave concern and should be investigated. With a little research, we can say, in most of the cases party-affiliated students can easily get away after committing such crimes.
It is the nexus of teachers and students who are affiliated to party politics which is a cause for concern.
Whenever the general students and teachers raise their voices against the corrupt system, the authority endeavours to dehumanise the protesters by tagging them a certain name, mostly to silence dissent. The pattern is such that whoever dares to raise the voice risks being called a traitor. This was exactly the case during the recent agitation at Jahangirnagar University.
In pursuit of retrieving our educational institutions from these entanglements, our media has a role to play.
Media has been covering the incidents happing in our university campuses, but their approach should be more investigative. The way we have come to know about the existence of torture cells in the student dormitories through the media, there should be more investigative reports on the incentives all party-affiliated 'students' enjoy for the crimes they commit.
Finally, to ensure the structural changes in the functionalities of our institutions, political affiliation of teachers and students should be abolished. Otherwise, change is impossible.
The fault lies in the structure
Dr. Susmita Chakrabarty
Professor, Department of Folklore, Rajshahi University
From the top levels of management to the levels of the administration in the universities across Bangladesh, there appears a flawed structure. The corruption is all pervading – from student admission tests to the recruitments of teachers, the authorities have failed to eliminate the anomalies and irregularities in the system.
The universities, as seats of learning, are the place for the teachers, students and the personnel concerned with such institutions. Unfortunately, our universities have been serving a purpose other than education.
Consequently, educational environment in our universities are being hampered and the system is contributing to their degradation by deprioritising campus-based student politics. This is happening because of a structural process which is comprised of sycophancy and cronyism. In fact, the irregularities are all pervading and are well known and we may continue to talk about the crises, but to no avail.
If the structure would allow a fair system to run its own course, there would have ensured transparency in recruitment of teachers, evaluation of the candidates' academic credentials. If we had recrueted qualified teachers, they would have been enthusiastic to serve the interest of the students.
Our universities now exist as mere names. We need to ask if these institutions are truly sincere about serving the interest of academia, or, by veering away from their course, are more inclined to serve the interest of actors affiliated to power and politics.
The university administrations have become so corrupt because of politicisation and cronyism, even a good soul in this system cannot contribute to bring any positive change.
As a result, the general teachers and students are now at risk. The guardians cannot but stay alarmed vis-à-vis uncertain situations on the university campuses. In fact, all of us are victims of these corrupt systems and many more odds turn of events would follow if these systems are not recast.
In an environment where students dare to beat up their teachers, it is rather perilous for a teacher to speak out to protest against wrongdoings. Many teachers fear the aftermath of speaking out against irregularities. When the system allows the 'students' to attack their teachers, a clear message is sent out – no one is there to guarantee the safety of the dissenters.