Professor donates life's savings to DU
The Department of Fisheries at Dhaka University was born in 1998, because of a pioneering role of Dr Mohammed Shafi, then a zoology professor. There was no space, so classes were held at the zoology and microbiology departments.
The situation went on until 2000 when the university authority gave the department Tk 50 lakh to construct its own building. It was supposed to be a two-storey building but Dr Shafi, the department's founding chairman, thought that the building would soon become inadequate to accommodate students and facilities like the computer or research lab.
So he asked for pile foundation for a five-storey building, and the fund soon ran out and the building ended up as one-storied.
Day by day space constraint became a bigger problem, making Dr Shafi restless. With unavailability of funds, he decided to add two storeys to the building with his own money.
But he did not have enough money right away. What he saved up till then was spent for buying a plot in Savar. Dr Shafi made his mind: he sold the plot in 2014 and donated Tk 40 lakh.
The building is now two-storied with another storey under construction with the money he gave.
“From the inception of this department I'm here. Students sit in congested classrooms. There is no adequate space for research; teachers cannot sit there comfortably. It used to hurt me,” the 77-year-old professor told The Daily Star. As he spoke his eyes welled up with tears.
Dr Shafi is one of the few people to have sacrificed almost all their life's savings for a noble cause. A father of three, he said this was the best thing he could do.
"I got my children educated. They are well settled now. What shall I do with this much money?" he said.
One of his sons lives in the US, another in Canada, and his only daughter in Nepal.
Dr Shafi retired in 2005 but still delivers classes at the department as supernumerary professor, an honorary position. "I love my colleagues and students. I feel proud to see my students at the Secretariat and government offices."
On May 4, the professor made another donation of Tk 30 lakh to the department for development of infrastructure, education and research, bringing the total of his donation to Tk 70 lakh.
When asked about his life's philosophy, Dr Shafi said there were two kinds of life: a happy life and an ideological life.
"Someone seeking to live a happy life only gives importance to the present. He only wants to gain wealth and live in luxury. But the ideological life is based on the past, present and future. A man who leads an ideological life thinks about the time after his death."
It is not the first time Dr Shafi donated. In 2010, he created a Tk 10 lakh fund after his parents, “Amena-Latif Trust Fund”. The three top scorers of the department of each academic year receive the scholarship.
In 2011, he founded "Professor Muhammed Shafi Trust Fund Fellowship”, for the top scorers in the honours and master's examinations, at the department.
He also created “Abdul Latif Student Scholarship Welfare Fund” in 2001, at Santahar BP School, where he went, and in the same year founded "Amena Khatun Female Student Welfare Fund" at Ahsanullah Institution in Bogra.
Prof Shafi was born on July 22, 1939, in Santahar of Bogra. After schooling, he studied in Rangpur Carmichael College and then graduated in zoology from Dhaka University in 1960. More than two decades later, after completing his post-graduation at DU and PhD in Glasgow University in the UK, he joined DU, in 1973.
Speaking about philanthropy, he said he learnt it from his father. "In our village, the Muslim population was poor. They could not properly organise festivals like wedding and Akika (naming ceremony). One day father brought 100 plates, large cooking pots, glasses, and spoons so that the neighbours could borrow them."
The incident left a lasting impression on his mind and inspired him to donate.
Dr Shafi now lives with his wife on the capital's Elephant Road.