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.

5 things you should know before chasing the ‘University Life’

From middle school till high school we get to hear one common phrase from our elders. “Study now, in order to ‘chill’ when you head for University”.

The idea of becoming ‘free’ from multiple disciplinary academics is such a fantasy to all ‘to-be’ freshmen that they believe the prank that society plays on them. Most of us have faced the harsh reality, and have our ways of coping with it. But for those who haven’t applied for University or will be heading for it, here are the things you should know before you dwell into a journey of ‘adulthood’.

1. The Battle to get into a Public University

Right after you finish A levels or HSC, comes the most difficult competition of it all. It often leads to a nationwide swirl every year over the opportunity to get admitted to a public university. While it is an amazing opportunity that you earn for yourself, it is also important to realize that not getting into one, does not necessarily mean that you do not have it in you to be a smart student.

Public universities are not golden gooses and it certainly isn’t the end of the road.

Read more: Where the real pride of Dhaka University lies

There are multiple Universities all across the country which offers you a certificate and scholarships you deserve. So, try not to break down, because you need to save up some energy to deal with quite a lot of adult problems ahead.

2. Choose your major wisely

By now, you should know what you love to do, and even if you don’t, that is also okay. However, try to choose a major or a department you want to genuinely study in and want to enjoy learning.

Read more: Choosing the right foreign university

If you want to study engineering, good on you. But if you want to be a writer or an anthropologist and you end up taking Computer Science and Engineering because you are too afraid of what your relatives might say of you, do understand this, none of them will help you out at 3 am in the morning to finish your assignment which will be due in the next six hours. You deserve the best in the world and you have to learn to fight for it.

3. You need to be present

Whether it is an orientation or a discussion which helps you with understanding the curriculum of your University or your department in details, you need to be there. Once you do get acquainted with everything, right after your classes start, it might be tempting to miss classes since you have been such a goody two shoes all your school life.

You might think you ‘owe it to yourself’ but understand your priority first, then the luxury, my friend. Regular attendance in your classes will not only help you keep in track with quizzes and lectures but you might also be a friendly face to your professor which will help you in the long run. The idea of getting a good grade in your courses is to be present, no matter what!

4. There is nothing called ‘chill time’ in your prime time

Sadly, the idea of having the most independent and free time when you are studying in a University is a lie that parents feed us so that we study more when it is easy to control us.

Of course, when you are in a University, you get to meet new people, hang out more, take time for finding your passion for something you were always interested in such as a part-time job, travel with your friends etc.

Read more: Struggles of an English major in Bangladesh

But it all becomes difficult to handle when you try to adjust all this while you are trying to graduate. This leads up to late night study hours, overeating, anxiety and that is where you really need to unleash the energy we told you to hold onto.

It might be tricky, but it’s not impossible to experience the best of everything with little time management hacks. All in all, enjoy your time but do not let yourself drift away.

Read more: Perils of Graduation

5. Treat yourself!

While you go through the freshmen, sophomore and senior phases of the years you are in the University, you will realize that not all friendships last, not everyone you like will love you back, that society has constructions you wish you knew before, that there are these crowds who call themselves “boro bhais” and they are of no use to you and that is okay.

Read more: 5 Bangladeshi platforms where you can pitch your startup

With all the hardships you may think you have to face, there is also a beam of light which will get you through it all. You need to sleep well, eat healthy, make healthy relationships with people and they do not have to be a handful. Most importantly treat yourself after every accomplishment or failure you may face in life because before anyone else you need to learn to love yourself.

Here’s to figuring out adulthood and much more!

Struggles of an English major in Bangladesh

Being an art major in this country is never ideal. People may appreciate literature and art but most of them don’t see the point of studying it. As a literature major myself, I constantly hear people saying the same things when they find out what I study.

“So you want to be a teacher?

I understand why it may seem like the obvious choice to people. But not all English majors want a career in teaching. There are other jobs that we can excel at as well.

“Your syllabus looks so fun. I wish I had that”

Yes, we read interesting novels, plays, stories, and poems. It’s not always fun and games when you will have to go through millions of other texts/explanations to just understand a 14 lines sonnet. Trust me it’s way more complicated than it looks. Because we have to critically analyze every bit of a text and later come up with our own opinions. Also, need to justify our opinions with the help of a gazillion critics. This often takes the fun out of the actual piece.

“How is your BCS preparation going? Try to get in the foreign sector.”

I don’t think in the last three years I have ever uttered the word BSC. Still, I don’t know why people keep asking me if I have taken any preparation for it. I mean come on people there are other ways to get a job even for public university students.

“How will reading poems help you get a job?”

If one asks what the point of poetry is, ask them what is the point of life even? Sorry to break your bubble but reading poetry will definitely give me jobs. Why? Because a person who constantly reads poetry develops better analytical skill. Which is a crucial skill to have in one’s work life.

In this complicated economy, it seems useless to study something related to art or literature.

“You can always work in a bank”

Thanks to all the uncles, aunts, random well-wishers for saying that. I appreciate your concern. But no I don’t want to work in a bank. I didn’t spend the last four years learning about Austen, Shakespeare, Wordsworth etc just to count numbers and handle people’s transactions (no offense to anyone working in banks). 

“Do an MBA after your undergrad”

Yes, because why not? My four years of undergrad was such a waste. So let’s just waste another two years doing an MBA and everything will be just fine. If a person actually wants to pursue that then it’s different. But please stop advising students who actually want to stick to their fields.

People still having these remarks makes it evident that we don’t take art majors seriously. In this complicated economy, it seems useless to study something related to art or literature. People forget to look at the fact that art portray our everyday life and it’s crucial to have a better understanding of it.

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.