Faujdarhat Cadet College
A Legacy of Learning
M Anwarul Haq
Only ten kilometers from Chittagong city as you move on the Grand Trunk Road towards Dhaka, you cannot fail to miss the huge grandeur of buildings and an elaborate linkage of playfields from rugby to football, hockey to basketball, cricket to squash and lawn tennis. More than 170 acres of land interconnect into a veritable cluster of concrete - now home to one of the most famous educational institutions of the country.
Founded in the scorching heat of the first Bengali month of Baishakh, exactly 50 years ago, this college has over the years succeeded in emerging not only as an institution of academic excellence it is also an oasis of scenic beauty and an epitome of modern architecture. Its plethora of inner roads are metalled, its interconnecting passages are made of concrete, its acres of glass are like blades of bliss and its drainage system empty the massive rain water so typical of Chittagong downpour into the neigbourhood in almost no time. And no idle water can stay to submerge the vast playgrounds even for half an hour so as to stand between cadets, and spoil their games or even prevent them from going for extra drills or an occasional punishment or for a fun run to the famous Faujdarhat beach jutting as an appendix to the Bay of Bengal only a kilometer away.
Its dining hall displaying a coat of arms drawn from distant shores and naval vessels carry a massive gong that grounds to silence at the sound of Bismillah signaling the collective start of lunch or dinner where even the sound of fork or spoon is supposed to be drowned in silence. Its shooting range draw some of the best shots while hushed noises of drama, and oratorical practices may even send occasional shivers through later day Ceasers.
This is Faujdarhat Cadet College, sandwiched between the often violent and the stormy sea roaring in the front, which can be seen from the grand but silent heights of the lush green chain of hills running behind the campus.
Faujdarhat Cadet College is the oldest public school of Bangladesh. The institution has mainly been modeled on the earlier lines of Britain's Eton, and to an extent Harrow. These schools were supposed to provide leaders with all round training who could lead in different aspects of public life. However, the comparison with them and Faujdarhat ends there. While the British public schools believed in taking students from well to do families, the first Cadet College of Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, was started to meet the growing aspirations of the people of this Eastern province. Following the victory of the Jukta Front in mid fifties, the rising aspirations of the Bengali middle class gradually culminated into the demand for good schools, both public and residential and Faujdarhat was the first sapling in the road to good education in this part of the world. Years of planning and meeting the aspirations of the people of the then East Pakistan, it began as the East Pakistan Cadet College.
Fulfulling these hopes and aspirations meant admitting students based on merit through holding public examinations and supplementing their educational costs through government funding. Soon students from all across Bangladesh were appearing in admission exams to Class VII. Statistics show that more than fifty per cent or more students were getting financial scholarship to enable them to study in cadet colleges.
What is the essence of cadet college education?
What makes cadet college education different from other institutions is that it emphasises the all round development of the students. It admits students in Class VII when they belong to the age group of 12. Their schooling ends with Class XII, ie. after their Intermediate exams. A student is away from the comfort of his family life and comes to the college at a most impressionable age. Because o f a mix of both reasons, he is tampered into the steel by the rigours of a disciplined life and a life without dependency on family or parents. He learns to fight his own battles, take his own decisions and face the consequences of his actions, through appreciation and punishment. He learns to know the good from the bad, the right from the wrong and gets enough time to reflect on the rigours of life. The tough training beginning with the sound of the bugle early in the morning, heralding the start of the day with physical training, classes, lunch, compulsory rest, indoor games, followed by outdoor games and activities and later by Preparation Hour and Library classes makes him understand the value of time. He not only brushes his own teeth, but cleans his own shoes, organises his own bed, polishes his belt and sees that his shirt button is not missing. And there is a definite time when lights are put out. He, or now in the case of women cadet colleges, she is not encouraged to wear personal clothings, or even display such special artefacts as watches or cameras. This makes everyone close to everyone else and they learn that they belong to the very common or rather that special tribe of common people. Life, he learns, is same for all, and no one is richer except by virtue of his education.
Much has been said about cadet colleges producing leaders. This is in many ways true and by no means an exaggeration. Leadership is the capacity to act individually in a given situation, where no one is there to guide. Students of cadet colleges, have shown over periods of time that they acquire leadership skills by having to take important decisions being given different responsibilities.
It may not be out of place to say that the cadets of Faujdarhat Cadet College as other colleges existing before the liberation war acted from a sense of patriotism, freedom, commitment and zeal when they in the largest possible number joined the War of Liberation.
The Pakistan Army had always propounded their favourite theory that the Bengalis were a non-martial race. But the huge number of Old Faujians and other cadets who swelled the ranks of the Liberation War and the eight martyrs who laid down their lives (of Faujdarhat alone) have proved not only incorrect but given a boot to the lies propounded by the Pakistan Army. Faujdarhat Cadet College first, like other cadet colleges coming in later, proved that Bangladesh produced some of the finest soldiers and also leaders anywhere in the world. It was said that the Battle of Waterloo was won in the playfields of Eton. When the history of Bangladesh will be written, Faujdarhat and other colleges will have their rightful places mentioned in gold.
Many feel that too harsh a training is imposed in cadet colleges. It is often taken very negatively by many new entrants and even parents. But ultimately everyone recognises that they have all enriched their lives through the training at cadet colleges. Education is the great leveller. It is true that when students enter cadet college, they spend their first few days weeping. It is also true that when cadets leave, they also keep on weeping and in this case not for days, but months maybe till their last days hoping that they could return to those memorable six years. But as all good things come to an end so does cadet college days. Only memories do last…
This April 28th marks the 50th foundation Anniversary of Faujdarhat Cadet College
The writer is the Chairman of Keep Cadet College Campaign Committee and long-time Secretary General of Old Faujians Association (OFA)
Major Md. Abdul Khaleque of the erstwhile Pakistan Army Corps of Artillery belonged to the 1st batch of Faujians. He is one of the early shaheeds of the War of Liberation. Working in an intelligence unit at Comilla Cantonment, he braved martyrdom there in March 1971. The junior most Old Faujian to be a shaheed was second Lieutenant Rafiq Ahmed Sarkar. He belongs to the 10th batch of Faujians and was commissioned in the East Bengal Regiment of the erstwhile Pakistan Army in 1970. He was posted at Rangpur Cantonment when the Liberation War broke out, and he embraced martyrdom there.
Other Shaheeds include AKM Nurul Absar, Mosharrof Hossain, Capt. Shamsul Huda, Lt. Anwar, Badiul Alam (Bir Uttam) and Mufti Kased. Twenty six other old Faujians are on record to have taken part in the War of Liberation. Between those living and the shaheeds, nine Old Faujians were decorated with gallantry awards.
Extracts from the souvenir of Reunion 98, by Ofn Major General S M Ibrahim (rtd) BP of 9th Batch.
(R) thedailystar.net 2008