Why we have lost faith in them
Coronation Krishna Prasad Institution (CKP) is a school in a not-so-prominent place called Barhatta, in Netrokona. Two long, parallel, corrugated iron sheet structures with a small building housing the headmaster’s office and the teachers’ common room; another long tin shed building with the labs and other facilities, and a patch of green field in between provided the very rudimentary facilities for its students.
A railway line and a mud track in front, a big open playground, and a good number of giant rain trees adorned the school compound, which was open on all sides with no gates and gatekeepers. The school had a nice garden neatly fenced with a good number of flower plants.
I remember the maths teacher introducing geometry with an interesting story of Egyptians living along the river Nile -- their lands were submerged in flood water every year, so they had to do something to streamline the land measurement system. On the insistence of the same teacher, we students had a thick copy book where he ensured that we had all the sums done, corrected, and nicely copied and preserved.
The English teacher taught us to divide a wide page copy book into three columns, one for the sentence in Bangla, the second for translation into English by the student, and the third for the corrected version given by the teacher.
The history teacher taught us to prepare a “historical chart,” where we recorded all dates chronologically along with a brief description of the event, thus making it a handy reference for the rest of the year.
Nobody used schoolbags in those days. There was no transport, and hence everybody came on foot, even from miles away.
The school held annual sports and cultural functions where students staged various performances. We had no big hall room for this. As a makeshift arrangement, the temporary partitions between several classrooms were removed to make provisions for the stage and gallery. On top of the stage it would read: “All the world’s a stage.”
With these events occurring in the early hours of the day, announcements of academic results and prize-giving ceremonies were done in the evening. On one such occasion, I was sitting in the last row of high benches as my name was announced -- I received a prize for coming third in the annual exam. I did not notice, know, or expect that there could be a prize for securing the third position in the exam. Hesitant and bewildered, I went up and received a book, which was a very pleasant surprise.
In those days, all thana officials would invariably have their children study in that school. It was not a practice to send children away to big cities or towns just to attend school. There were no coaching centres, hence school was the only place of teaching and learning.
Things have changed over the decades. Hardly any upazila official nowadays would send their children to a school where they serve. The sickening Dhaka-centricity has
taken its toll.
A few years back, I was talking to a retired army sergeant who served with me for quite a few years and had settled at Barhatta, having built his own house not so far from the school I named. As I inquired about his welfare, I also asked about his children’s education and how the CKP Institution was doing.
To my utter shock, he informed me that his wife resided in Mymensingh in a rented house to facilitate his sons’ education at the Cantonment Public School there. I reminded him that I had attended that school back in 1970, hence I found no reason why he should not send his sons to that school. He said: “Gone are those days, Sir. The school is not of any standard now. I cannot trust them with my children’s future.” I felt dismayed and tried to figure out what might have gone wrong.
I browsed the internet and found that the school is a government one now, having a number of large three-storey buildings with an impressive gate with its name inscribed. Students are in nice uniforms with bags on their backs, smartly travelling on their bicycles. The physical infrastructure seemed just fine in the video.
If we take this sergeant as a token of the conscious parents and the school, we need to do some soul-searching to find what actually went wrong and why our schools have lost our confidence. One prime reason is that teaching as a profession has not been given the importance it deserves.
Next, we have commercialized education -- coaching centres are more important than schools. We have failed to install creativity in our learning in spite of so-called creative questions.
Finally, our students are engaged in the rat race of GPA 5, ignoring the actual appeal of education to equip them to face the challenges in life.
Brig Gen Qazi Abidus Samad, ndc, psc (Retd) is a freelance contributor. Email: [email protected]