MANY educational institutions, particularly the ones meant for higher education, have been hitting the headlines for wrong reasons for quite some years. Many a public university has witnessed unrest and subsequent closure for certain periods reportedly because of the authoritarian use and abuse of power by the authorities concerned, seriously affecting the academic life of students, on the one hand, and the image of the institutions, on the other. Right now, educational activities are hampered in Barishal University, Chittagong University, Bangabandu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University and Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology because of various controversial decisions made and politically partisan behaviour displayed by the authorities concerned. Besides, the Student League, the student wing of the ruling Awami League, remains a major source of indiscipline and instability in many a college and university — the reason the country’s highest court rightly criticized on Thursday the unruly student body in question for creating anarchy on campuses of educational institutions.
It is true that the academic environment in higher seats of learning has never been ideal in this country, but the situation has worsened over the past decade, visibly because of the political and intellectual autocracy established on the campuses by ruling party supporters, which is manifested in appointments of extremely partisan heads of institution and teacher recruitment. Then, again, the partisan authorities have continued to recruit teachers, officers and employees in the institutions and, that too, at times, under pressure exerted by Student League leaders and activists. The result is obvious: the existence and perpetuation of a pervasive undemocratic environment — political, intellectual and administrative — in which none can expect a sound and creative growth of young minds in colleges and universities although that is one of the prime objectives society rightfully expects from educational institutions.
Under such circumstances, the first important thing that the country needs to do is to democratise the educational institutions in question. However, it is only understood that no wishful thinking to this end will solve the problem nor any weak attempts would also deliver any positive result, for the vested interests grown under the political support and patronage would thwart the weak initiatives. What is, therefore, needed to do at the moment is to forge a broad-based alliance of democratically-oriented students and teachers, even officers and employees, to fight for the dismantling of forces of crudely partisan vested interests, which in turn would create a democratic environment where the authorities remain duly accountable to the relevant forums, on the one hand, and all stakeholders would enjoy equal opportunities to advance the democratic cause of education, on the other.
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