Initiated in 2000, Human Rights Summer School is a training platform on human rights which is intended to apprise the young participants of crucial societal issues. After participating in the ten-day residential school, Nafiul Alam Shupto writes his experience
EDUCATOR John Dewey says, ‘I believe finally, that education must be conceived as a continuing reconstruction of experience; that the process and the goal of education are one and the same thing.’ 20 years of anti-generic legal education in Bangladesh is a classic reflection of the statement. It has been 20 years of a silent revolution that has taken place in the legal fraternity of Bangladesh.
It is professor Mizanur Rahman, former chairman, National Human Rights Commission Bangladesh, who is not only a teacher but also a philosopher as well as an education reformer, who started the voyage of anti-generic legal education with the spirit that every individual and every organ of the society must strive to promote respect for, and recognition and observance of human rights by progressive teaching and education — as it has been proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948.
With a view to foster the spirit, Human Rights Summer School was introduced in the year 2000 by a voluntary, non-profit, non-political, non-governmental human rights education, research and training organisation called ‘Empowerment Through Law of the Common People’ founded by Mizanur Rahman.
In its landmark 20th edition I had the privilege to join the never-ending voyage. One thing I must say that it was a journey full of goose bumps. The 20th Human Rights Summer School took place in Proshika HRDC, Koitta, Manikganj from October 10-21, 2019. In total 42 law students of 22 different law schools from Bangladesh, Nepal and India participated in the residential school to learn various practical aspects of law and human rights. The theme of this year's summer school was 'Human Rights and Rebellious Lawyering’ which stands heavily on its objective since inception for promoting anti-generic learning and pro-poor lawyering.
The two-week long residential program was inaugurated by Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, speaker of the parliament. Atiar Rahman, former governor of Bangladesh Bank was the guest of honour and delivered a lecture in memory of justice KM Subhan and professor KAA Quamruddin on financial inclusion and human rights in Bangladesh.
This year, the summer school dedicated a day to the work and legacy of professor N R Madhava Menon, the distinguished teacher widely recognised as the father of modern legal education in India. In the valedictory session, SM Rezaul Karim, minister of housing and public works attended the event as the chief guest and professor Md Rahmat Ullah, dean, faculty of law of University of Dhaka was present as the special guest.
Human Rights Summer School is a training platform on human rights which is intended to apprise the participants of crucial societal issues, like poverty alleviation, empowerment of the women, rights of the minority, environment issues, eradication of child labour, basic health care in rural areas et cetera. Apart from appreciating the sheer legal theories, the participants are taught to relate the human rights issues to the prevailing socio-economic scenario of Bangladesh in order so that the bulk of internationally recognised common rights can be interpreted in context of the reality that is prevalent in our own society.
It provides the participants with a modern and effective methodology for the implementation of basic human rights, by teaching them how to gather information, inquire, investigate and research into these issues, evaluate alternative solutions or courses of action, weigh the means of conflict resolution, and ultimately how to advocate convincingly and effectively on behalf of the solution, action or method adopted.
Furthermore the educators from various corners of home and abroad shared their knowledge and experiences through interactive sessions, debates, arguments, comments. What could be more progressive form of education than this? The platform was open to all to exchange ideas, share hypothesis, analyse information or challenge any issue with cooperation, compassion and care. In short, it follows the well-known principle: I listen, I forget; I see, I remember; I act, I understand.
As I have already mentioned it as a ceaseless voyage, I am unable to share what I have learned in those two weeks. It is a perpetual journey that I have just stepped into. But one thing I can state that it taught me how to draw differences between information, knowledge and wisdom. Rather mentioning what I have learned I want to share how it changed my perspective.
I was spellbound by the lectures of the educators from home and abroad. We often talked about progressive education. Well HRSS is a platform for progressive education. It taught me that nothing in this world is conclusive. You can break, create, and reform anything with your knowledge and wisdom. It developed a humanist perspective in me where now I believe there is no option left other than being humanist in order to make the world a better place than ever. It injected a humanist ideology with a rebellious approach. None other but the law activists can bring a revolution in the society not through the traditional way but through the anti-generic activism.
I imbibed a deep sense of societal responsibility which I will carry on in order to accelerate the voyage. Apart from all these I embraced the finest minds in the human rights activism from home and abroad which I consider as a precious gift for lifetime. Excepting the traditional classroom model education, human rights summer school introduced a clinical method of training in the legal fraternity which is recognised world-wide as the most effective training methodology in this regard. I would like to refer it as fostering ideology, lifestyle towards a humanist approach.
Having no clue how to conclude I found some excellent remarks by professor Rahman about the rebellious lawyering ideology. He says, ‘Thus, rebellious lawyering has already begun spreading its roots and will definitely usher in the true age of emancipation of the common people. The works of the rebellious lawyers are giving voice to the voiceless, power to those who believed in their destiny to live as the subordinated, making the hitherto invincible poor and the downtrodden visible in the eye of the law and the policy makers…these lawyers are dressed in traditional lawyers’ outfits, sharing the chambers with traditional lawyers, walking the same corridors of law and power but endowed with unparalleled inner strength of mind. They know that their path is the true path of empowerment of the common people, they believe that it is not individual good but the common good they aspire for, they are convinced that true emancipation happens only when human dignity is protected, ensured and guaranteed at all times. They are taking huge steps yet making no sound. But their apparent seeking of solace in silence is leading to fundamental changes in how we live our lives in the future. The change is colossal. This is what we call a revolution. This is a silent revolution already in motion. Can you hear the drum beats?’
At the end I would like to remark, I feel that I belong to the revolutionary rebellious voyage towards humanity. That is what I achieved from the 20th Human rights Summer School.
Nafiul Alam Shupto is a student of North South University.
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