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OP-ED: What Mashrafe meant

  • Published at 08:27 pm August 7th, 2020

We all need to do some soul-searching on what it means to be educated

The former skipper of our national cricket team and now a member of parliament, Mashrafe bin Mortaza, has recently stirred a few minds across our intelligentsia. At an event at his constituency, he commented that “most of our educated people are involved in corruption.”

Most people of the country may have been satisfied and happy about his comment but a section of the “educated” thought they should discuss this issue and they did. I thought the TV media would make this a subject of their talk show, but I didn’t notice any.

However, a few questions and their probable answers played around in my mind for a while. Are most of the educated people really involved in corruption? What was going on in Mashrafe’s mind? Aren’t less-educated people also involved in corruption? What would be the right education for us to make the society free of corruption?

We all have observed Mashrafe as a man of integrity and a great leader. He has contributed to our team greatly and is capable of handling any grave situation with the leadership skills inherent in him. However, his recent statement regarding corruption has led me to believe that the statement was an expression of helplessness. 

Now that he is an MP and has to deal with various kinds of people -- educated or otherwise -- he must have had some experience that led him to believe that most of the educated people were involved in corruption.

Truly speaking, the state of corruption in Bangladesh is not a good one. It’s our common understanding that anybody and everybody would tend to become corrupt or take undue advantage of a situation whenever they get an opportunity. Some, we also think, may remain honest because of the lack of opportunity. Some wouldn’t know how to be corrupt and get away with the act.

There’s no easy answer to the corruption of our psyche.

If I consider myself an educated person, have I spent all my life without being corrupt? Tough question to answer. Haven’t I taken a printout from my office printer for my son’s homework? Yes, I did a few times. Was that proper action on my part? My office pays for my work, and I should have gotten that printout from a shop by spending Tk50 or Tk100. Instead, I resorted to something that was not ethical for me to do. 

Likewise, there are many like me doing similar things which could very easily be termed as corruption.

When I refuse to pay the rickshaw-puller the right fare, wouldn’t that be an act of corruption? When a pensioner pays a bribe to an official to receive his or her rightful money, wouldn’t that be an act of corruption? Once upon a time, we needed landline telephone connections, and one would never get a connection without paying any bribe to the telephone workers. 

Now, when faced with such a situation, have we ever decided that we don’t want the connection? Have we ever thought: If this is the system then we shouldn’t play a role to expedite it?

When the traffic police stopped us for breaking a traffic law, haven’t we thought of bribing the personnel to get away with it? We all did I think. Don’t deny it now.

If we go back in history by two or three generations, we see that the rich had the luxury to have education at that time. However, despite being educated, haven’t the rich manipulated the lives of the poor by resorting to many unfair means in society? What did the colonial power do in this country? They had shown the worst corrupt means of lifestyle to us, and we thought that was normal.

Now, after years of earning freedom from many colonial occupiers, ask any businessman of this country whether they think paying speed money is crime. They would say “it may be a crime, but it’s getting my job done.” There you go. Who do they pay the speed money to? 

Haven’t most of those receivers graduated from the universities of the country? If yes, they must be educated, as we call it. Now, what did Mashrafe say wrong? You can twist his statement in many ways, but you can’t deny that the educated have an inclination towards corruption; can you?

Now, let’s focus on “education.” Does studying in a school, a college and a university make me honest? Does achieving a degree ensure that I am educated enough to lead an honest life? If I am a religious person, I must be educated on religious affairs. Does saying prayers regularly ensure that I can lead an honest life -- without involving me in corruption? Not at all.

I believe the word “educated” has been grossly abused in our country. We haven’t asked ourselves what true education was and who the truly educated people were. Who do we call educated? The people who have university degrees? No. The universities make us skilled on certain subjects, but not educated persons.

Real education absolutely depends of the person himself or herself, his or her family legacy, and the social environment that he or she lives in. No human is born as a corrupt person. The environment leads them to become corrupt. 

When our environment is corrupt, why do we boast about being educated? That’s not what education is supposed to teach. After receiving education, weren’t we supposed to bring about a positive change? Many self-educated persons, without going to any institution, have been leading way better lives than the degree achievers.

So, before contesting Mashrafe’s statement, our intelligentsia may think of doing some soul-searching on education. Then, perhaps, we would be ready to discuss this.

Ekram Kabir is a story-teller and a communications professional. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.