Debating for development: UNFPA Bangladesh Youth Dialogue

From November 12-14, 2019, the Government of Kenya, the Government of Denmark, and UNFPA are convening the Nairobi Summit, a high-level conference to advance the implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action. The conference will offer an inclusive platform, bringing together governments, UN agencies, civil society, private sector organisations, women’s groups and youth networks to discuss and agree on actions to accelerate the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action.

On September 6, 2019, UNFPA Bangladesh in collaboration with Bangladesh Debating Council (BDC) and Independent University, Bangladesh Debating club (IUBDC) launched a two-day debate tournament at the premises of Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).

The tournament was organised with an objective to engage the youth, where the participants from universities – both public and private – can engage in an extensive discussion on how the realisation of the ICPD Agenda is intrinsic to sustainable economic growth for Bangladesh.

Their voices echoed through the debates on a range of topics that are close to UNFPA’s agenda. The ideas and recommendations of the participants will be presented to the stakeholders of national and international development to the Summit.

The debate tournament addressed real-world issues and brought out the voice of the youth on problems like disseminating messages on specific ICPD themes: sexual reproductive health and rights, maternal health, prevent violence against women and child marriage. To empower and involve them to disseminate these issue-based messages to their peers and to bring the attention of policymakers about the needs of youth-based SRHR services: prevention of child marriage, maternal mortality and violence against women. To build awareness among adolescents and youth about the opportunities and challenges associated with them.

To mark the Summit, 16 teams from reputed public and private universities from Dhaka, Rajshahi, Khulna, Sylhet and Chattogram were invited to participate in this competition, along with 22 most reputed judges in the debate circuit. The teams had four preliminary rounds of debate that were carried out on September 6. All the teams faced off against each other where the top four teams at the end of the preliminary rounds qualified for the finals held on September 7, 2019.

The championship went to Independent University, Bangladesh Debate Club (IUBDC) with the runners-up award going to IBA, University of Dhaka.

The debates were followed by a youth-centric plenary session opened by Dr Asa Torkelsson, Representative of UNFPA whose opening remarks echoed the vision of the UNFPA.

“UNFPA has been working with and for young people since our inception. Our partnerships with young people are, and must always be, based on their active and meaningful participation. In order to achieve the ICPD Agenda from 25 years ago, we need to take account of your experiences, concerns and stories to shape an inclusive future for you, who will also help us achieve the SDGs.”

She said

The speech was followed by a presentation on the topic by UNFPA Deputy Representative, Eiko Narita. Following that Sakib Bin Rashid, Instructor at 10 Minute School, Ashreen Mridha, Bangladesh Women’s National Basketball Team Player, and Umama Zillur, Founder of Kotha, led an interactive session covering youth leadership, women empowerment and sexual violence.

“On behalf of the entire English debating community of Bangladesh I am honoured that the UNFPA entrusted us to help crowdsource important ideas to be taken into consideration at Nairobi, this validates that the time the youth spend behind researching and generating discourse on these crucial ideas do indeed matter and has encouraged us all to keep the discourse going so that our ideas and voices can play a role in the ever changing global landscape.”

Said Fardeen Ameen, the Chair of Bangladesh Debating Council

Abandoned WWII airbase to turn into Bangladesh’s first Aeronautical and Aviation University

With help from voice-voters in Parliament, a bill was proposed on February 19th titled, ‘Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Aviation and Aerospace University Bill, 2019’. The bill passed successfully on February 25th. So, the first Aeronautical and Aviation University is now located at an airport in Lalmonirhart that has been abandoned since World War II! A fitting homage!

There will be an aircraft manufacturing factory. According to the Minister of Social Welfare, Nuruzzaman Ahmed, the Government may also establish an aircraft and maintenance repair factory. Traders in Lalomonirhat believe that reusing the abandoned airport will contribute to the academic and economic development of the country.

Source: Daily Star

The university will have both undergraduate and postgraduate levels for their students. He further noted, “Initially, the university plans to have seven faculties, four departments, four institutes.”

Furthermore, the Vice-Chancellor of the University will be a member of the Air Force. As per constitutional law, Bangladesh Air Force Academy, Flying Instructor School, Flight Safety Institute Command and Staff Training Institute, Aeronautical Institute and Officers Training Institute will all be affiliated with the university.

How life in Dhaka University changes you

Dhaka University, along with all the universities around Bangladesh, has welcomed in their newest batch of pupils. Being in my final year as a Dhaka University student, it has been quite an experience seeing most of the freshers of different departments flocked together in TSC, Curzon Hall or in front of a random tea stall in the campus.

Dhaka University, despite all its flaws, will change the outlook of its pupils.

Whether it is good or bad, that remains a question. With that in mind- here’s how Dhaka University will change you.

But hey, if you want to go abroad, we can help you a little there too!

A bit of a culture shock

Dhaka University is a melting pot for all sorts of people around Bangladesh. It’s an entirely new scenario for a majority of the fresher’s. The first few weeks in DU can be a bit daunting for most, irrespective of whether they were born and raised in Dhaka or came from a remote suburb or village of another district.

For some, this culture shock might be a bit too much to handle. But asking anyone who has studied in DU for more than a semester, they will all more or less agree that waiting out the initial shock was totally worth it.

Judging a book by its cover

Judging people based on where they’ve come from or their background is one of the dumbest moves a fresher can make. Some of the best people you will meet in DU will probably have come from completely different backgrounds than yourself. DU gives its student a place to interact with hundreds of like-minded people. Don’t let something as minor as different backgrounds get in your way from achieving it. Be the first to introduce yourself to seniors, peers or juniors.

Learning to take responsibilities

Whenever a student is admitted into Dhaka University, he or she is pretty much thrown into the deep end when it comes to doing things by themselves. From giving tuition fees to filing for lost id cards, Dhaka university’s excessive bureaucracy will make you much more responsible whether you like it or not. And nothing sums up that expression more aptly than DU’s notorious “Registrar Building”. A place where according to myths, time slows down equivalent to travelling around a black hole. Freshers, you have been warned.

Becoming street smart

Being Street smart is always a great quality to have. And Dhaka University is the perfect space for even the rookies to hone this amazing quality. They know the right people for the right job. They can bargain to get a better rate on books or clothes in new market and Nilkhet. They have ideas about the best routes to travel around the city at minimal cost. These are just some of the things the students get a grasp on in just the first few months in DU. And we all know these things can’t be learnt from textbooks.

“Being here has definitely helped me become a better negotiator and conversationalist”

Says Amitabh Sarkar a third-year student.

Political awareness, because duh!

It’s generally quite hard not to be politically aware in most public university in Bangladesh. The credit goes to the culture of having student wings of most of the prominent political parties. Dhaka University is still the largest hub for student politics and activism in Bangladesh dating all the way back to the British era. Even in today’s political climate, DU still seen a bastion for free speech and progressive ideas and movements even with the ever-strengthening presence of Big Brother.

“However you don’t automatically become politically aware just by studying here. The truth is, awareness comes from the will to be aware. And comparatively, we do get the opportunities here”

Says a third year Peace and Conflict Studies student Megh Mallar Boshu.

Exploring the more artistic side of life

The artistic side of life draws you more? Then you cannot go wrong with DU. Take a stroll around Charukola compound. Attend the many concerts, poetry recitals, and movie screening.

It’s undeniable that DU nurtures the appreciation of different forms of art. The students’ associations, clubs, and societies work to showcase, promote, inspire and support many budding artists within the DU community.  

Afternoon tea breaks taken to a whole other level

DU students gain a newfound appreciation for tea. It is much more than just tea, it’s the whole experience. The afternoons at TSC with a cup of tea of your favorite kind and the mingling with virtually everyone. The heated conversations in those afternoons are the things that shape the person you turn out to be later on.

Dorm life and the bed bugs scourge

No DU experience is complete without staying at the dorms at least once in a while. And having a good friend or two who staying in dorms will make your time in university so much easier. The life in these dorms is no joke. People struggle the most during the tenure of their undergrad. But these five years of dorm life will teach you valuable life lessons that you can’t get anywhere else.

Where the real pride of Dhaka University lies

Cover art by: Helena Lyzu

The Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dhaka is in the limelight for some time now. This is because of his controversial speech in the orientation program of the freshmen students of Dhaka University. With major pronunciation mistakes, he stated that “You cannot find a cup of tea along with a piece of chap, singara, and samusa for only Tk 10 anywhere in the world.”

I believe that there are many other areas in which Dhaka University can be proud of other than this astounding achievement.

The alumni of this 97 years old university have taken the name University of Dhaka to a new height from time to time.

So, here is a list of ten Dhaka University Alumni who have played role in securing the justified pride of Dhaka University.

Humayun Ahmed

Humayun Ahmed. This name is a source of all kinds of emotions to thousands of people. He is still the most popular Bangladeshi writer and it can be easily predicted that he will remain so in the upcoming years. Humayun Ahmed is the author of Nondito Noroke and many other highly praised literary works. He received Bangla Academy Award in 1981 and received six Bangladesh National Film Awards later on. His famous TV series Kotaho Keu Nei was highly popular among the Bangladeshis. The popularity can be measured through the protest that happened in Bangladesh due to the death of the central character. He is certainly a pride of Dhaka University.

Zahir Raihan

The legendary Bangladeshi novelist, filmmaker and writer went missing on 30 January 1972. Jahir Raihan was a warrior with a camera. Even today we see footage from his documentary Stop Genocide every time there is news about the liberation war of Bangladesh. Our film industry has very few classics and some of those belong to this brilliant filmmaker. When asked about Zahir Raihan, Dhaka University Film Society member Mahmudul Hasan replied in one word, “Phenomenon”. This Ekushey Padak winner studied at Dhaka University. 

Munier Choudhury

This Bangladeshi educationist, playwright and literary critic completed his Masters’ from the University of Dhaka in 1947. We all have read or seen the drama Kabar at some point in our lives. This symbolic drama was created by Munier Chowdhury. He received Bangla Academy literary award in 1962.

Dr. Muhammad Yunus

The first ever Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize winner also studied at the University of Dhaka. His work against poverty is appreciated worldwide. He has a long list of awards and achievements. If all these things don’t make him the pride of any institution, then I don’t know what will. 

Satyendra Nath Bose

No, this famous physicist didn’t study at the University of Dhaka, but he was appointed as a teacher in the Physics department in 1921. He wrote his paper on quantum radiation from here. This paper is now considered as the base of quantum statistics throughout the world. I guess this is enough for him to enter the list of Pride of DU.

Humayun Azad

Many consider him the second most contributing person to Bangla Literature after Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah. His thesis paper titled as Pronominalizing in Bengali (1983) gained much fame. His literary works are also noteworthy. Although he generated much controversy through his feminist viewed books, his contribution to Bengali cannot be denied. He is also considered as a role model to many for his bravery. He studied and taught in the University of Dhaka and was awarded Bangla Academy Literary Award.

Leela Roy

Ever asked the question, who was the first woman to study at the University of Dhaka? Here is your answer.

She was also elected as the member of the assembly in 1946. Leela Roy is considered as the feminist idol of this sub-continent. She was politically involved in a time when women were considered as only housewives. She placed herself well into this list.

Abdul Matin Chowdhury

This ex-VC of Dhaka University has also placed himself on this list. Even during the Pakistani era, prof. Chowdhury was appointed as the chief scientist of Ministry of Defense. He was also in the committee for Nobel prize in physics. In 1974, prof. Matin became the first Bose professor.

Buddhadeva Bose or Buddhadeb Bosu

This Padma Bhushan awardee studied literature at the University of Dhaka. Many know him for his poetry, but he was a versatile writer who traveled almost every arena of literature. He is considered as the most impactful poets of modern Bangla poetry. He is one of the most reputed writers in Bengali Literature and he is certainly a pride of the University of Dhaka.

Shahabuddin Ahmed

The only painter in this list. He studied at the Dhaka Art College which is now the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. He was awarded Chevalier De L’ordre Des Arts Et Des Lettres (Knight in the Order of Fine Arts and Humanities) by the Ministry of Cultural Affair and Communication of France in 2014. His paintings are displayed in many prestigious museums across the whole world. He was also awarded Shadhinata Padak in 2000.

Hon’ble Mention

It was too tough to sort out 10 Alumni of the University of Dhaka, who can be a pride to the university. I won’t be able to sleep at night if I don’t put one more name here. So, the Hon’ble mention goes to:

Tareque Masud

This honorable filmmaker got his fame for his amazingly portrayed films. He was awarded the FIPRESCI Prize for his film Matir Moyna (The Clay Bird). This film was the first film of Bangladesh to compete in the Academy Awards. He completed his masters’ degree in History from the University of Dhaka.

Even though I am not a student at the University of Dhaka, the speech of the Hon’ble VC hurt me. I am pretty sure that it would’ve hurt them as well.  The University of Dhaka has many things to be proud of and the food is not one of those. Give respect where respect is due. Thank you.