THE education minister made a rather morally distasteful remark recently that shocked the nation yet again. However, that seems to be the harsh reality of our country at the moment. In a programme of Directorate of Inspection and Audit at the Education Building in the capital on December 24, 2017, the education minister Nurul Islam Nahid said, ‘employees of the Directorate of Inspection and Audit go to educational institutions for inspection. After going there, they give positive report about that institution in exchange of bribe. Envelops are always ready for school inspections. But I have a request to you. Take bribe, but keep it within a tolerable limit. Because I do not have the courage to say that don’t take bribe. That would be meaningless’. His widely published commentary on corruption in the education sector did not end there. He continued, ‘It is not the case that only the officers are thieves, ministers are also thieves, I am also thief. This has been happening always in this world. But this situation must be changed.’
One should raise question that how an education minister of a country can make such ethically compromised remark. His comment took the social media by storm. People from all walks of life felt truly aggrieved by such stark reality described by the minister. Many asked, how could possibly be a self-declared thief can hold the position of the education minister of a country. Would any other education minister of any country in the world be able to hold the position after presiding over such corrupt practices? Definitely the answer is — No.
In the face of harsh critique across the country, the education minister called the press to contextualise his remark. In his written statement, he tried to claim that his comment was directed to the state of severely corrupt Directorate of Inspection and Audit under Bangladesh Nationalist Party government. However way he tries to contextualise his comment, the truth is his government did not have the moral clarity and political will to say, ‘no corruption under our watch.’ And as an education minister, Nahid has totally failed to stop the corruption in education sector under his tenure.
Actually what the minister told ‘naively’ is true. If we look deeper, we will not find these remarks as naïve, rather it is political display of arrogance. And the arrogance, our education minister showed yesterday in front of public, is exactly what the ruling party is practising now — not counting people, felling free to do anything, feeling free to say anything and thinking that people can do nothing to the rulers. He called everyone a thief and he included. It may be his version of satire, or sugar coated naiveté. But the fact of the matter is we are living under a kleptocratic regime. Therefore, we have no chance to consider the remarks of minister Nahid as a slip of tongue, instead he blurted out the truth.
After the independence, the successive ruling party elites have adopted economic policies that left room for plunder, corruption, black money, smuggling and other illegal means of bleeding the national economy. In the process of developing this type of economy, the ruling class has created such a situation now that actually goons, thugs and thieves are in power of this county. When thieves, goons and thugs are in power, they never count people. Tragically, after 46 years of independence, instead of enjoying democracy, we are governed by thugocracy and kleptocracy, literally.
In this thugocracy-kleptocracy, it is not abnormal that an education minister has overtly declared himself and his colleagues as thieves. Even the infamous education minister from the inter-colonial Pakistani regime, Fazlur Rahman did not dare to show such audacity that the present education minister expressed. What we need to keep in mind here is that this arrogance of a minister of a people’s republic does not emerge over night.
What minister Nahid did not say is that thugocracy and kleptocracy can only produce thugs and thieves. In doing so, such form of governance come to assault every part of people’s sovereign spaces. And this is exactly what the bourgeoisie ruling class of this country has been doing since independence. They did not even shy away from destroying the mass education system. It is done in such a way that the education system itself is now encouraging thievery from the school level. A practice that is very much compatible with the interest of that class. Actually to maintain their position in power, they need thieves and thugs, politically loyal followers, not morally educated citizens.
From the very beginning of independence, the successive governments allowed market to play in education sector through rampantly commercialising people’s education from the school level. They never ensured public primary schools for all students which was their constitutional obligation. They almost abstained themselves from establishing secondary primary schools and colleges. At the same time, they did not ensure adequate and standard education in schools and colleges through ensuring good teachers, well written textbooks and adequate educational facilities and infrastructures.
Through rampant commercialisation of education, a philosophy is created that the only goal of education is to pass exam and get a job of ‘good salary’, not learning the subjects. The education system developed by the ruling class does not teach students to learn properly or to understand. In reality, it just teaches to memorise and pass in exams anyway. That system also does not teach students about self-dignity. Schools and colleges are now turned into certificate giving centres. Because of these reasons students are compelled to depend on the services and commodities of shadow education market — coaching centres, notebook-guidebooks and private tutors. Most of these services and commodities offered by shadow education market provide students ‘shortcuts’ and ‘suggestions’ which is nothing but a form of thievery. And recently the market has brought its newest commodity — leaked question paper — which is directly turning students into thieves.
After the inception of so called ‘creative education’ system, question papers are being leaked deliberately years after years. Meanwhile, the education minister took no effective measure to put a stop to these unethical and illegal practices.
It is also true that it is not possible for the government to check question paper leak without addressing the root causes mentioned above. Actually what the so called creative education system has done is just to intensify the dependency on notebook-guidebook and coaching centres. The reason of question papers are leaked in such an extent under the ‘creative’ era of education is very simple. The government has not touched the root causes of students’ dependency on shadow education market. Instead, in the name of reform, it has made the situation worse in terms of textbooks and examination procedure. Under the label of ‘creativity,’ they have brought some absurd changes in the examination procedure which has no connection with creativity in reality. Thus the new ‘creative system’ puts as an extra burden on the students in the backdrop of student’s dependency on guidebook-couching centres. Therefore, it is no surprise, under a kleptocratic regime, that students would increasingly begin to depend on leaked question paper. Thus the entire education system, especially the creative education is enough to produce little ‘thieves’ who have no self-dignity. With much dismay, I cannot help but ask, what will happen in future when these little ‘thieves’ will grow up? Therefore, Minister Nahid’s remark must not be treated as ‘fun’. It is actually unconscious or may be conscious acknowledgement of our political reality.
During this creative era, the statement of the minister will do nothing but make the situation more severe and encourage further corruption. The conscious part of the society including student organisations must raise their voice to demand that the minister publicly apologise for such morally reprehensible remark and resign. More importantly, we all must be organised for a radical change in our education system, particularly against what is happening under the blanket of ‘creative’ education. Otherwise, may be one day, we have to witness that education minster is advising: ‘leak question paper, but keep it within a tolerable limit!’
Mahtab Uddin Ahmed is a member of the editorial team of New Age.
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