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       Volume 10 |Issue 03 | January 21, 2011 |


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No room for corruption in education


One must commend without being economic in superlatives the otherwise humble education minister and his team for several successes, namely the uniform educational system and the readiness of the school text books at the beginning of the academic calendar. His predecessors made them look oh so very difficult and unattainable.

There are ministries still that have yet to make a marked difference from the past, and if Nahid Shaheb is any standard to go by, some may have their job on the line if and when the prime minister reviews their performance.

Let it be clearly understood that education is a thorny bed of roses. It has its own political setup, petty interest groups divided not necessarily along the line of national politics, it is a huge undertaking as it involves almost the entire population, most recently it has been charged with traffic jam in the city, and it is volatile and randomly flammable for reasons beyond academics. Yet it has its fragrances that transforms into a heavenly glow on the face of a parent who has a truly educated child.

Education is not about degrees alone, an unfortunate notion that has given rise over decades to the mafia of coaching centres and simultaneous lack of classroom teaching, photocopying of certificates and mark sheets, and falsification of information for job benefits. Most damagingly for the society, mutually supportive cliques in public universities, colleges, and schools have dealt rather leniently with corruption in education, particularly with regard to teacher employment. This the cliques have often done to 'teach' someone they do not like a lesson. Clique masters should know there are many ways to tackle another person not in their favour, but let not their personal wrath help the corrupt and the cheat to get by.

A nation's educational system is for grooming bhaalo manush, even if many of them may read or write somewhat lesser than the decadent so-called 'professors' and 'executives' with degree initials behind their name. The latter are not among the truly educated; they are merely taking advantage of education.

The following letter from a father to his son's teacher shall be an eye-opener: “My son starts school today. It is all going to be strange and new to him for a while and I wish you would treat him gently. It is an adventure that might take him across continents, an adventure that probably includes wars, tragedy, and sorrow. To live this life will require faith, love, and courage.

“So dear Teacher, will you please take him by his hand and teach him things he will have to know, teaching him - but gently, if you can. Teach him that for every enemy, there is a friend. He will have to know that all men are not just, that all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero, that for every crooked politician, there is a dedicated leader.

“Teach him if you can that 10 cents earned is of far more value than a dollar found. In school, teacher, it is far more honourable to fail than to cheat. Teach him to learn how to gracefully lose, and enjoy winning when he does win.

“Teach him to be gentle with people, tough with tough people. Steer him away from envy if you can and teach him the secret of quiet laughter. Teach him if you can how to laugh when he is sad. Teach him also there is no shame in tears. Teach him there can be glory in failure and despair in success. Teach him to scoff at cynics.

“Teach him if you can the wonders of books, but also give time to ponder the extreme mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun and flowers on a green hill. Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong.

“Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone else is doing it. Teach him to listen to everyone, but teach him also to filter all that he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.

“Teach him to sell his talents and brains to the highest bidder but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul. Let him have the courage to be impatient, let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind, in God.”

The letter was written by the 16th US president Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) when his son was starting school. A century and half have passed, but the contents have perhaps never been more relevant.

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