As The Daily Star honoured students who achieved extraordinary marks in their O- level and A-level exams for the 2018-19 session, at its award-giving ceremony yesterday, one common dream seeped through the hall -- these youngsters would build the Bangladesh of tomorrow.
Speaking at the event, Muhammed Zafar Iqbal, the chief guest, said, "Similar to how you cannot shun your own mother, and call another more beautiful woman 'mother', there could be countries more beautiful than your motherland, but only your country will remain your motherland."
The event was held at the Shaheed Suhrawardy Indoor Stadium in the capital's Mirpur. A total of 1,504 O-level achievers who got six A's and 484 A-level achievers who got two A's were hailed for their hard work and dedication.
Selim RF Hussain, MD and CEO, BRAC Bank Limited, encouraged the students to see the world, and stated, "BRAC Bank would like to help finance such expeditions, but we hope and pray that you will come back. We hope that you never forget you are a Bangladeshi. Please come back and add value to your country. Your disruptive ideas are changing the perception of what Bangladesh is all about."
Rouham Manzoor, managing partner at MACES, said, "Follow in the footsteps of people who left [their jobs] abroad at the pinnacle of success to come back and build Bangladesh.
"It is your decision to choose what kind of Bangladeshi you are going to be."
Chiming with the sentiments being echoed, Mastermind English Medium School, Bangladesh International Tutorial and BAF Shaheen English Medium School put on a cultural performance, recreating the historic events of February 21, 1952 to reiterate the importance of protesting for one's rights and one's mother tongue.
Marie Curie School went back to the roots and paid homage to the primary producers of society -- the farmers, the fishers and the workers. Oxford International School, through its cultural performance, told the story of deforestation, pollution and rapid urbanisation in order to send a message to the audience about saving the planet.
"It has been a popular misconception that by teaching in English the schools alienate the children from their culture," said Yasmeen Murshed, former adviser to a caretaker government and founder of Scholastica School. She added that this is completely untrue, as evidenced by the passion with which the students celebrated their own cultures.
To celebrate the multiplicity of religions in the country, the programme began with recitations from the Holy Quran, Bible, Geeta and Tripitak, delivered by Azmine Azim Nahin from South Point School, Stalone Prachaya Biswas from Methodist English Medium School, Bibek Chowdhury from Academia and Tathoi Barua from AG Church School respectively.
Speaking on the occasion, Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, said, "These 21 years have been filled with dreams…We are showing our critics what a determined and committed people can do for a nation."
He urged the students to explore the world but added, "At the end of it all, come back to the country that has given birth to you. The world needs you but your own country needs you more.
"An English-medium education may have given you global citizenship, but your most valuable inheritance is your mother tongue."
Many other noted speakers imparted valuable advice to the students.
"This is just your first test in life. It may not be that easy once you leave your nest," said Premila Paulraj, regional director of Pearson Edexcel in South Asia.
Dr Md Sabur Khan, founder and chairman, Board of Trustees, Daffodil International University, quoted Winston Churchill, stating, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that matters."
Afterwards, MM Monirul Alam, managing director and CEO, Guardian Life Insurance Limited, advised students who are good in mathematics to follow his career path. "Bangladesh needs a good number of actuaries for the insurance and financial industry, and [being an] actuary is a highly rewarding career."
Osama Bin Noor, co-founder of Youth Opportunities, and also the first Bangladeshi to make it to Forbes 30 under 30 list, highlighted another point -- that in spite of the achievements of the students present at the venue, the talents being recognised are only of one type, and not everybody has to be talented in the same way.
"All of you are talented. But the Creator does not send every one with the same types of skills. I would request you all to help those not here today to discover their inner potential," he said.
As reference, he spoke of his own journey of creating a website -- the wildly popular website "Youth Opportunities" -- stressing how it had little to do with the subjects taught in school and more to do with Noor's entrepreneurial skills and passion to effect change.
Zunaed Rabbani moderated the event.
The Daily Star initiated the unique annual event in 1999, which, over the years, has turned into a source of inspiration for many.