THE THIRD VIEW What message does this politics give our students?

Our best and the brightest are being wasted

ONE of my colleagues drew my attention to a contrasting television image of our youth that deserves to be brought to the attention of our readers. In one we see young boys and girls neatly attired in uniform trying to go to school or looking desperately to find out what is the fate of their hartal interrupted examination schedules.
The other is that of young men brandishing knives, small spears, sharp choppers and various types of homemade petrol bombs or cocktails ready to throw at a passing car, auto-rickshaw or bus to set it on fire without caring whether people riding in it get burnt alive or not. There are also images of young people (here young women are not far behind) throwing bricks, breaking glasses of vehicles, overturning rickshaws and CNGs, breaking shop windows and setting some of them on fire.
The question is what are we teaching our youngsters in the name of political activism? What messages are we giving about politics and political process? On the one hand, the students who want to go to school, want to study, want to sit for examinations are left in the lurch and those who break the law, indulge in vandalism, arson and even killing people are embraced as party activist.
Even if we accept the fact that opposition activists have no qualms about hurting ruling party members — and of course vice versa — what about innocent people falling victims to opposition programmes? What about the people killed, maimed, burnt and made disabled? Is there no concern for these citizens on the part of opposition parties, especially BNP and Jamaat? On Wednesday, we published a picture of a 14 year old girl blinded in both eyes by a stray bomb hurled near her. What will our opposition leaders tell her, that her life is destroyed because the ruling party refused to give in to their demands of a caretaker government? How does it concern a 14 year old who was just exercising her basic right of going from one place to another?
What we find most shocking is that there is never a word of apology to innocent people, who have nothing to do with party activities and who fall victim to the callous destructive behaviour of our politicos. The common refrain of the opposition that ‘government is responsible’ even when their own activists are setting properties and vehicles on fire is really most repulsive.
In the just concluded three day hartal, thousands of A and O level students missed one of their exams. Cambridge University and London University, the two institutions that hold the examination are yet to decide what they will do. Our students may have missed a whole session. There are even murmurs of shifting the exam to Kolkata if Dhaka becomes an uncertain venue, in which case many of our students may not be able to afford it.
According to our report of last Thursday, examinations of 2 million students sitting for Junior Secondary Certificate (JSC) and Junior Dakhil Certificate (JDC) examinations will be affected if the opposition implements its plan for a three day hartal starting from November 4. Another 3 million students sitting for post Fifth Grade test will not be able to give their exams if hartal is given from November 17 onwards.
The hartal programme for November 4 is already announced, and that for November 17 onwards is very likely to happen because the opposition plans to intensify its agitation especially after the poll schedule is announced.
Counting just these two activities of the opposition we see how the examinations of 5 million students are likely to be affected. To this if we add the ruling party’s own actions to retaliate against the opposition’s show of strength and incidences of sporadic, unplanned and unforeseen violence, we can easily foresee that school sessions are likely to be severely affected in the coming weeks and months.
So what is our politicians’ message to our students? Is it to say ‘sorry your studies can go to hell but we have to win the power game first?’ We must remember that schools, wherefrom the very young to the adolescent boys and girls come together, are the first institutions to be affected by political unrest. No school, and far less parents, would take any risk concerning the safety of their kids. Even when there are no hartals, schools discontinue their classes at the slightest possibility of trouble. Then there are local political unrests when schools of specific localities are closed. So, schools are closed for far more days than there are hartals. It has now become a common practice to hold make-up classes on weekends to catch up with studies missed, greatly disrupting family life.
The despondency among the studious, bright and ambitious young is on the rise. While it is only through them that we can bring Bangladesh to the global level, yet we are systematically destroying them through violent and confrontational politics. For the sake of our future generation, can’t we stop this destructive politics and have some sort of understanding to restore hope in the hearts of the young?

Source: The Daily Star


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