University education in jeopardy

Vested quarters active in making campus situation volatile on futile issues

Academic activities of at least nine public universities and one private university in the country is being badly hampered due to ongoing 'movement' at the campuses causing serious concern among students and the guardians. If such situation continues to prevail at the campuses furthermore, the students will have to compensate that with a huge toll, opined teachers and students of different public varsities with grave concern.

 “We got admitted to the university for higher studies and research. But instead of a sound academic atmosphere, we are facing recurrent obstacles as a section of teachers and students are always active to make the campus situation volatile over a futile issue. Such culture should immediately be stopped,” a student of Jahangirnagar University said on Thursday.

Students and teachers or 'students by being instigated by teachers' at Dhaka University, Jahangirnagar University (JU), Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University (BSTU), Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (KUET), Islamic University(IU), Pabna University of Science and Technology(PUST), Begum Rokeya University(BRU) and even at private varsity Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (AUST) were seen to show agitation at their respective campuses demanding removal of the vice-chancellors of some of the respective varsities for realisation of points of demands.

In the wake of massive agitation between Pro-VC and anti-VC supporters, authorities of Jahangirnagar University declared the campus close sine die recently. Besides, the KUET authorities also closed the university for an indefinite period following a clash between two groups of students over a game competition between two dormitories of the campus.

It is alleged, in the guise of general students, some so called students and student organisations' leaders are engaged in plotting to destroy the sound academic atmosphere of the campus in the name of ‘so called students movement’, university authorities observed. Moreover, the public universities where no student agitation is still visible, tension is brewing in there which may be exploded any time and destabilise the campus situation, experts predict. The internal feud of the government backed student organisation-Chhatra League was also adding fuel to the fire and taking the opportunity of the rife between the Chhatra League factions, students belong to other organisations of the campus were raising their heads and conducting anti-VC as well as anti-government movements throughout the varsity campuses of the country.

However, some teachers of public universities termed such violent activities during the first-year bachelor admission for 2019-'20 academic session and aftermath of the process of admission as immoral and illogical. While students are getting prepared to get admitted in bachelor first year classes in the universities, such prevailing unrest situation in the country’s top public university campuses is planned and created, they opined.

Following a murder by classmates at BUET campus' residential hall, the law enforcers took immediate action against offenders irrespective of their party affiliation. Even, the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina did not express any word in favour of the students involved in killing of the BUET student Abrar and assured parents of Abrar of proper justice at her residence and trial of those involved accused at the shortest possible time and the Vice-Chancellor of BUT himself has visited the house of victim Abrar to express his condolence to the family members but he was, in fact, roughed up and forced to return from there. Later on, Vice Chancellor of BUET also agreed to fulfil all demands of the students including the banning of student politics from BUET. But, the vested quarters at the BUET campus were still instigating the students and teachers to boycott classes and all sort of academic activities.

With such situation of unrest, the admission seekers have become worried and their guardians are in deep crisis over the admission of their offspring to the public varsities. Earlier, Dr AKM Golam Rabbani, Proctor of DU, termed latest incident of campus situation a conspiracy against the university and students as well.

“It can’t be accepted. It can’t be tolerated. We are very worried over the activities of a section of students who are involved in creating chaos on the campus. And they are doing this in a planned way only to destroy the image of the university,” he said. Referring to the first year honours admission process , he said when the university authorities are set to admit new students for academic session 2109-'20 these so call students groups are staging demonstration on the campus to make the new comers panicky.

“We are repeatedly requesting the students to refrain from all violent activities as the university’s admission process is continuing. They are not paying heed to our request. And, we even asked them to stop such unruly behaviour for the sake of admission seekers but all seem in vain,” Golam Rabbani said. On the other hand, the protesting students and teachers of Jahangirnagar University on Wednesday demanded resignation of Vice-Chancellor Professor Farzana Islam within November over her alleged involvement in corruption. On Wednesday several hundred teachers and students took procession and staged demonstration in front of the administrative building of JU.

Besides, Professor Farzana was declared unwanted at the campus during upcoming admission tests of the university. At the same time, the protesters declared a week-long demonstration programme this week. Professor Raihan Raine, one of the protesting teachers, said Professor Farzana has no moral right to hold the post of the VC of the university after serious allegations of corruption against her. At a stage of agitation, protesting teachers, students confiscated Professor Farzana into her chamber for a long time when the activists of Chhatra League was forced to intervene and freed Vice Chancellor Farzamna from the grip of agitators. The authorities of JU then declared the campus closed sine die but some unruly students of the campus were still showing agitation at the campus.

As a result, a tense situation is prevailing on the campus. Member of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Professor Dil Afroza Begum said there are two factors at the root of the current situation in universities. One of them is, employment of teachers in various departments the other is infrastructure development projects. There are alleged transaction of huge illegal financial transaction on both sides. If both of the issues were removed from the university, there would be no crisis at the public varsities at all, she added.

Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Kazi Shahidullah said, "The crisis that exists in the universities has to be resolved on its own." They have been given autonomy. They have their own Senate-Syndicate. There is a dire need to work out solutions immediately. The government or the UGC can only advise on the issues. However, a letter will be sent to the ministry to determine the cause of the crisis in these universities", he added.

In 2009, there were 31 public universities, with average female student numbers were 31 percent. And now there are 49 public universities, with an average female student the population of 37 percent. Private universities were 51 in 2009, while the female student enrolment rate was 24 percent. And now the private universities are 105 and the rate of female students is 27.88 percent.

Although higher education institutions and students are increasing, higher education institutions are now facing various problems. About 25 private universities do not have the Vice-chancellors, UGC data states. About a half of the university does not have the treasurers. Complaints about hiring a teacher in a government university are numerous. There is a crisis with the appointment of Vice-Chancellor. 

Again, many complaints are being raised against the Vice-Chancellor, including the appointment and commissioning of development works. Yet, at least five universities are facing unrest mainly due to the alleged corruption of the Vice-chancellors. Rasheda K Chowdhury, a former caretaker government adviser said, “The unemployment is constantly on the rise because of an increased higher educated persons and the poor job opportunities. According to the labour force survey, the number of unemployed at the end of the financial year 2016-2017 was 26,77,000. 39pc of the educated resources of the country are now unemployed.”

She, stressed the need for a work-oriented and skill-based education to overcome this situation. Founding Vice-Chancellor of East-West University and former Governor of Bangladesh Bank Mohammad Farasuddin said, numerical development in the education system of the country has been excellent but the quality improvement has not been ensured that way. Quality improvement in education has been the lowest, especially at the secondary level. And the quality of education in higher education continues to be a deteriorated. As a result, deficit is being noticed in the quality and quality of human resources. This is the one of the main cause of economic and social disruption in the country,” added Mohammad Farasuddin.