Conversation with a committed debater
Arif Ashraf Nayan
It was fun to have a conversation with A. K. M. Shoaib the other day. He came to Star Campus office to congratulate us on our effort to undertake a difficult subject like compiling the activities of the debating clubs in Bangladesh. Though we could not cover all the clubs in the country, nevertheless he said that it was a good work. We took it as a compliment since it came from a person who is considered a living icon in the debating arena in Bangladesh. We then wanted to know about him and his future plans to take debating even to a greater height. At present, he is the Chair of National Debate Federation, commonly known as NDF, the central organization of our country's debate movement.
Our conversation went as follows:
A.A: Mr. Shoaib, would you please tell us exactly when did you start debating?
S: I started debating when I was in class five in Kushtia Zilla School. Actually the practice of debate initially started from my family, as both my parents were culturally very active. And my elder brother was a famous debater of his time. All these factors motivated me get actively involved in debate.
A.A.: Would you tell our readers about your achievements in this field?
S: I have given my best efforts to spread debate among the grass root level people through diverse kinds of activities. And to my sweet surprise, I have witnessed that people have acknowledged my effort. Over the last few years, debate has become popular and established itself as an art across the country. If you call this an achievement, I am definitely honored.
I was felicitated by Dhaka University with an award for popularising debate in Bangladesh in 2004. I also received University Blue Award in the year 1995-96 which is considered the most prestigious award in this field for becoming champion in the National Television Debate Championship 94-95 on behalf of Muktijodha Ziaur Rahman Hall, DU.
In 1995, I was elected the president of Dhaka University Debating Society, which is considered the powerhouse of debate in Bangladesh. I led the Bangladesh team in international Bastari International English debate tournament, which was held in Malaysia organised by Malaya University at Kuala Lumpur. I received the gold medal in the National Rotaract Assembly's debate competition in 1996.
AA: So you think you have gained a lot from debating...
S: ...Mmm, what I gained is, in one word, unique. I have been able to interact with tens of thousands of young people, know their mindset and dreams, the way they think and aspire for new horizons. Diverse cultures across regions have come closer to me as I mixed with more and more people. These young people were the most talented and creative ones...and you know, they made me feel richer and fresher. Sometimes I feel I exist because of my association with debating.
One more thing, it is because of debate that I have been able to express myself in various forums--freely and openly. I have shared my beliefs, thoughts, conscience, feelings, everything with people from diverse backgrounds--irrespective of class and creed. Not necessarily they have shared my views and thoughts, but they have listened to me.
In my professional life, I have been working in managerial position in sales and marketing department in Youngone--a reputed multinational company. Even here, I have tremendous experience when it comes to public relations and customer communication. Because of my debate background, I have seen people treating me differently. They put some extra bit of trust, confidence and respect toward me, which has made me far responsible as a manager.
AA.: Tell us your views about the current status of debate in our country.
S: I personally feel that a great silent battle has been going on in the reputable educational institutions in order to transform debate into a modern art. And the good result has been: debate is no longer confined in the elite circle...rather it has spread its wings across innumerable institutions in the remote areas of the country.
Today's young generation need to acquire lot of additional knowledge vis-à-vis classroom learning...particularly in this globalized world. This fact has motivated our guardians to motivated their children to get accustomed to debating. They have realised that speaking is a great art. And debate will enhance that art. Because of this, debate clubs are increasing day-by-day everywhere.
Let me tell you my experience at Rangamati and Chandpur in the national debate festivals, and also in the debate workshops and competitions at Bandarban, Khagrachhori, Chittagong, Comilla, Sylhet, Kushtia, Faridpur, Rajshahi and Mymensingh. What I saw everywhere was overwhelming participation by young people. Many of them had never done debating in their lives. But they joined out of sheer motivation and eagerness. I was moved by their enthusiasm.
Not so long ago, we used to see debaters participating in two or three debate competitions. But today's debaters are able to participate in thirty-forty debate competitions/workshops/festivals in one single year. Shouldn't I judge it as a huge advancement?
AA: Where do you want to take our debate from here?
S: NDF for the first time is organising Bank Al-Falah Inter-University SAARC Debate Championship in Dhaka next year. This will drastically help highlight Bangladeshi debate in global debate arena. This will help to dissolve all intellectual borders among the participating nations.In the coming December, National Inter-School English and Bangla Debate Championship and National Debate Festival will take place in Kushtia--along with division- and district-wise debate workshops and competitions. These will boost our debate culture to a great extent.
I am grateful to the debaters of NDF. Because of their commitment and dedication we have come where we are today. I therefore dream of a future where debate will become an inextricable part of our academic culture, and a solid platform of our national creativity. A logic-loving, tolerant and conscious generation will evolve that day....
(R) thedailystar.net 2006