Tuesday, March 31, 2020 | ePaper

New Year and our resolutions

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Shahin Reza :
Different parts of the world have their own calendars, introduced in different contexts at different times. At the present day, the most widely used calendar is the Gregorian one, also known as the 'English Calendar', which has become the globally accepted educational and business calendar too. The first day of the 'English calendar' is 1st January each year and the last is 31st December. That night is often called '31st night' and is celebrated worldwide to welcome the New Year with breathtaking firework displays in capitals as far apart as Sydney and New York at the stroke of midnight in each and every time zone.
One of the New Year's Day traditions is making resolutions. A New Year's resolution is a promise that a person make to him/herself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad. It's often a matter of joke how long we manage to keep up with our new resolutions not to smoke, to eat chocolate or a host of other unwanted habits that make us unhealthy or unattractive.
If we look at both the individual and macro levels, I think we have too many resolutions to make this New Year in 2020. The year is very significant for us as a nation; we will be celebrating the 100th birthday of the Father of the Nation, our 50th year of Independence, a century since the establishment of Dhaka University and, the year after, we have made the commitment to become a developing country. So the year 2020 is very significant for us from political, economic and educational points of view.
My priorities as New Year resolutions
Firstly, as an individual I would like to make a resolution for this New Year that I will not throw any litter on the street, starting from one second after midnight on 1st January 2020. I think this is something we could all make a commitment to, because it will cost us not a single paisa but the impact on our surroundings could be significant. If we can make this commitment as a nation, we will see a litter-free Bangladesh in 2020, which will be a remarkable gift for the next generation and a significant achievement as a nation!
Secondly, I would like to make a recommendation for a New Year resolution to our future generation, particularly students of tertiary educational institutions. I would like us all to promise that we will not get involved in any ragging from 1st January, 2020. Again, this should be another easy one! It just requires willingness and won't incur any cost to anyone. Yet, the impact is going to be significant. In recent times as a nation we have witnessed some of the extreme effects of ragging in different educational institutions. We have lost Abrar, a brilliant student of BUET. Abrar's killing is only the most brutal instance, however. There are many others which belittle and shame our freshers and make them depressed but which never come to the notice of the universities, the authorities or even students' parents. They are a national disgrace and make the country question how those with so many advantages in the field of education could have learnt so little that they are prepared to act in these inhuman ways. We can't possibly call this 'ragging'-it is the lowest form of bullying and intimidation, where those who should know better take advantage of weaker individuals whom they should be helping.
It's not only Abrar though. I am also thinking of the 25 students against whom police has given charge sheets! They are also victims of this ragging culture. I have empathy for the parents and families of those 25 as well, because I know when their sons got into BUET, they had such very high expectations. I am sure their parents were very proud of their children for their success. Just as now, I can understand how ashamed those parents are about their children's conduct. Quite possibly they don't want to hear their sons' names mentioned in their community any more. What a waste of beautiful dreams, now transformed into nightmares!
We all know how competitive it is to get admitted into BUET and academically students need to be the best of the best in SSC and HSC. It shows how hard they worked, right up to their grade 12 final examinations and afterwards all the many extra hours of study they put into cramming for the entrance examinations to get into this, the most prestigious of all the Universities in the country. However, I am shocked at how they were molded during 1 to 2 years in BUET into sadistic vandals who managed to kill one of their fellow students living in the same hostel with them, whom they used to share meals with in the same dining hall, attend classes under the same teachers! Yet, they did not hesitate to kill their friend. I still wonder about that process of socialization-we can even term it 'brainwashing', perhaps-they went through, which, within a short span of time, transformed the very best students into killers. I think it may require further research to find out the root cause for this. However, I feel if all the students of tertiary institutions make a resolution that there will be no ragging in academic institutions from now on, that should at least stop supplying the fuel to the' molding machine' that converts our brightest students into murderers.
We have also witnessed the brutal killings of Rifat Sharif in Borguna and Biswojit in old Dhaka which were both committed by students, not by any professional assassin.
A commitment by the students of tertiary educational institutions, not to get involved in ragging may help eliminate lots of issues in the higher education sector. I do not want to believe that any students get into the universities to become 'raggers'.  Rather, some possibly become so to take revenge, because they were also victimized in this cruel way. So it cascades down on the newer intake.
Thirdly, I would like to make another resolution for this New Year that, as an individual, I will follow the traffic rules and regulations and would like to request all Bangladeshis to follow my example as well. Bangladesh is possibly the country in the world where traffic rules are violated the most. Every day we witness how the Highway Code is broken at all levels starting from general people to very high-level responsible citizens of the state. Violation of traffic rules includes: not using the foot over-bridge/underpass but, instead, crossing busy roads everywhere, riding motorcycles on footpaths, driving vehicles on the wrong side of the road, competitions among public buses, etc. These are just the tip of the iceberg and constitute only a few of the examples of traffic rule infringements which we all see every day and accept as normal practices. We also see the consequences of these. Every day we read or watch the news of mass killing from road accidents.
Again, this is something as a nation we can all make a resolution about: we must promise not to break the traffic rules from 1st January 2020. This will not cost us anything at all; we see that our law and order agencies are quite active on the streets to implement the traffic rules. However, I strongly believe that if we make a commitment to ourselves, then we will see a different situation very soon where drivers will be tolerant and respectful to each other, and pedestrians and drivers will even care about the other's well-being too! Tolerance and respect will automatically reduce the use of horns; possibly there is no other country in the world that uses car horns as much as Bangladeshis do. Use of horns should also be regulated under the traffic rules so that they can only be used in emergencies.
Finally, as a member of education domain myself, I would like to add a resolution that we, as parents of school-going students, should adopt. Although it is natural for each and every one of us to want our children to excel at school and in public examinations so that they can secure the most satisfying, profitable and secure jobs, we need always to keep in mind that there are other things just as important as Maths, Science and Accounting results! Our children should be living the best days of their lives while they are under our care, free of the kind of pressure they will experience in the world of work! Yet, how many of our kids spend day after day, month after month, year after year, rushing from home to school, from school to coaching centre, from coaching centre to private home tutor. Let's remember that there are other areas of interest that might brighten their lives and awaken interests they did not know were even possible: everything from reading great stories to exploring the stars, to running between the stumps of wickets and seeing the grateful faces of street children they themselves have helped.
Let us make sure that we give our child every opportunity to shine in a much wider range of activities than those taught in schools, that we perform our role as guides and carers by letting our children experience not just exams, cribbing and the traditional subjects they are supposed to do well in but the whole range of opportunity and promise that is waiting for them in the adult world. Let's tell ourselves that the smiles of our children are worth more than keeping up with the neighbours. And let's always help our kids to remember that they are loved, whether they get into BUET or not!
To sum up, I know we have too many areas to address, some as individuals and some as a nation. However, we have to start somewhere which is within our control and which does not depend on the willingness of others. We shouldn't always expect the government to force us to do things. Surely, after 50 years of Independence, as we are about to graduate as a developing nation, we should be civilized enough to regulate our own behavior without being told - at least in certain areas.  
I am sure, in addition to these four proposed resolutions, many of us will have individual ones, such as giving up smoking from 1st January 2020.
All the above resolutions are not difficult at all to achieve and as a nation if we all commit to do these from 1st January 2020 the world may see a very different Bangladesh.
Now, the question is that how we become united as a nation to make our New Year resolutions work for 2020. Well, we have a huge number of media and they can play an important role in uniting us as a nation to make our commitment to ourselves in the above areas.  By publishing this article The New Nation is already playing its part and I would hope that other media will also come forward to unite with us on these four New Year Resolutions. The other media do not have to publish the full article as it is.  It can be a very simple oath with four bullet points, namely :
? I will not throw any litter on the street
? I will not be involved in any ragging activities
? I will obey the traffic rules
? I will remember that my child's world should be a wider one than just exam grades
The Ministries of ICT and of Information may consider taking a joint initiative to run a live oath session in the electronic and social media on 31stDecember 2019 at 12:00 midnight.  Of course, this will require some prior communication through different media to ensure the maximum possible participation in the oath. Still there will be a segment that won't be able to participate in the live oath. But, when the majority of people are committed to these four New Year resolutions, the others will come under pressure to follow them too!
Let's hope for a new Bangladesh in the New Year 2020!

(The writer is Country Manager-Cambridge International and Managing Director-EduCan International)

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