On education and caste

New Age Youth | Published: 00:00, Jan 05,2020


The photo of a girl asking ‘why can’t the children from Harijan community get admission in the Gaibandha Sadar Upazila Model School’ is circulating in social media. This sheds light on the caste based discrimination that is prevailing in our society. Young people shares their thoughts on the issue with New Age Youth

MD Talebur Islam Rupom
Graduated from University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh

HARIJAN community who is also broadly referred as the Dalit community has been deprived of their very basic rights since the moment they were brought to the Bengal region during the British rule. Though it has been more than 150 years since their arrival in Bengal, the scenario of their lives has not been changed yet. They do not get health, education and other basic living facilities. On paper, they have been given those rights but on ground level, it has not happened yet.

There are two types of Dalit groups — one is Bangla speaking who has been living in this region for the last few centuries and the other one is non-Bangla speaking who were brought by the British from different parts of the present-day India for cleaning, working in jungles and other labour intensive ‘dirty works’ during their colonisation.

Alarmingly, this community still have to keep doing the same works. Barring their children from mainstream education only worsen the situation. The lives of the Dalit community in Dhaka are even more miserable. Their number in Dhaka is more than Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps. They are not able to arrange a proper accommodation and have to live in a tiny place all together as there is a stigmatised narrative on them socially.

On the other hand, their income is extremely low than any other average Bangladeshi citizens. So, both economically and socially, they are deprived from everything. It impacts on the academic affairs too. Because decade after decade, their history has been written that way, not by them, but by the powerful.

Although some of the Dalit community had actively participated in the movement of abolishing colonialism against the Britain, in fact one of the first movements against British East India Company, under then the British emperor, was initiated by the Santals, one of the oldest Dalit communities; their contribution has gone out of the light. They were never counted as mainstream people. As a result, recently we have seen the unfortunate incident of not admitting Harijan children in school and the following protest.

Apparently, both government and non-governmental agencies work on poverty and assure education to even migrants in recent time who have been exiled from another country. Additionally, international institutions are doing the same. It is easier for them to get funds on a popular issue, rather than a caste-based marginalised community. Still it is vulnerable as there is violence going on in North-eastern India, as well as other parts, over identity and very basic rights.

Perhaps, Dalit or Harijan communities are not the only one in the world who are extremely deprived of their basic rights. For example, Native Americans or Australians referred as indigenous Americans and Australians have been marginalised in the same way. They also lead an underprivileged life in their respective regions whereas both of the countries have top tier economy and much developed as a nation. But these communities are used to live and work in nature which is not friendly to the modern-day economy and corporations.

In a nutshell, globally it is being normalised to keep away such communities from the very basic rights. Besides, any national or international agency hardly does anything meaningful for people of marginalised communities.

Hence, it is high time for Bangladesh to connect and utilise them in the mainstream economy and society as well assure basic right for them and their children so that they can also enjoy the basic benefits that urban people enjoy today.

Sajid Ahamed Dipto
Stamford University

PEOPLE from all walks of life deserve a better education. While Bangladesh is moving towards achieving sustainable development goals, it is significant to ensure education for all. This is quite disappointing to hear that children from Harijan community have no right to get admission in Gaibandha Sadar Upazila Model School.

This certainly sets a barrier among people and creates a caste based distinction among them. A few months ago, we saw a female graduate who was from Harijan community. Even BBC reported on her success. That means everybody is genius by their own rights. We should not judge people by the community they belong.

I think government and other non-profit organisations are working for ensuring better education for all. But why cannot they see that people from Harijan community are facing numerous problems regarding education? Despite having so many other social problems and discriminations, people are working for creating a better Bangladesh where everyone is literate and educated. But when we see discrimination like this every now and then, by that time, we realise that we are still suffering from a dreadful disease which is called ignorance.

Needless to say, government is liable for such circumstance. A girl from Harijan community was seen holding a poster that she has no right to get admitted in Gaibandha Sadar Upazila Model School. This simply shows how racist we have become as a nation. This should never be the reason pulling us behind to have optimum literacy rate in Bangladesh. Everybody should have education regardless which community they have come from. That girl from Harijan community has the potential to make a great career and serve her community.

We are living in a time where we often see discrimination and racism no matter either it is a corporate world or schools and colleges. These are not the purposes of education. Being born in that community is never a crime in the first place so why cannot they have proper education? Why did we create such a barrier? This never brings the light of hope to a society.

We should break these taboos and social stereotypes. Sri Lanka has achieved its goal of 100 per cent literacy rate a few years back. I wonder — do they ever consider people by their community? Do they ever value rich people just because they are rich? They have worked for their people regardless their homes and identities.

AS Shitol
North South University

WHAT is the Harijan community? They are the ‘lowest’ caste people in Bangladesh. They build large slums to live in Netrokona, Mymensingh, Narayanganj and other areas of the country. They are like someone who is quite alien in their own land. They are ‘untouchable’ in the society. Some people do not even have time to listen to their tragic life stories. But this community is making our lives easier by doing some of the most important tasks of our daily life.

Living in the Harijan community means bad sanitary conditions, inadequate work opportunities, flooding from time to time, eating low quality food, adapting to a life that is absolutely unimaginable to the ‘urban civilised world’. And educating their children is a far cry. Occasionally, we find that a lot of Harijan parents had to admit their children by hiding their own identity.

Due to the existing caste system in the society, the Harijan community has been separated from the mainstream society. It really shames us. We must be concerned that Harijan community is not somehow alien in Bangladesh. They are also a part of this nation.

Education plays a vital role in shaping successful people. It allows us to become a productive member of a civilised society by acquiring all the necessary skills. Education is definitely important in one’s life. Education lays the foundation stone for our future.

All the divisions of education have their own importance and benefits. Primary education prepares the base. So education must be ensured without any boundaries. And break all obstacles for Harijan society to make their life easier

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