Prof Noman -- a teacher extraordinaire | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 06, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 06, 2008

Lest We Forget

Prof Noman -- a teacher extraordinaire

There are some persons in this planet of ours who do not need direct acquaintance for you to know them. I am not talking about a famous statesman or a celebrated writer or even a big artist. Rather I am talking about a professor who was truly educated, a real connoisseur of learning with high ethical standards. That a man of letters would prove a connoisseur of learning is not to be taken for granted in our given social context; because, for most of the educated class here, education is only a means to make a living. But the professor I am referring to here was a man of learning as well as a connoisseur of education; though he was not the one to make newspaper headlines. He was a renowned man, one who was and continues to be, honourably enshrined in our hearts.
He is Professor Mohammad Noman. I did not have a direct acquaintance with him, but he was known to me. He might not have known me; and had no reason to. The gap of generations was the reason. Moreover, I was not a person to be reckoned by him either. But, even being unacquainted, I had reasons to know him; and respect him.
The first reason was perhaps the affinity of the profession we shared. A feeling of proximity to someone famous in the same profession is spontaneous. Yet, the height of Professor Noman's personality and the uniqueness of his character played a decisive role in generating this feeling of proximity. I am not a believer in blindly taking one as a teacher only because of one's being in the teaching profession. I am unwilling to recognize as teachers those who have taken teaching simply as just one of the jobs and tend to pass their professional career as such. They are mere service holders. On the other hand, those who combine their teaching with a sustained engagement to pursuits of knowledge and to ethical standards are the ones deserving to be called 'teachers.' Professor Noman was a teacher of this description; which is why I was drawn to know him.
His experience in teaching was varied and outstanding; which took him to teach at different colleges across Bangladesh. His teaching career did, however, began and concluded at two separate universities. Starting his profession as a Lecturer at the Dhaka University, Department of English, he called it a day as the Vice Chancellor of Jahangirnagar University. It is worth nothing that his profession of teaching was intertwined by his involvement in the profession of education administration. He achieved unquestionable successes in both of these related fields. Besides, he held the office of the Secretary of Bangla Academy, the apex research institution of the nation, for about a year. It was a very tough and delicate responsibility requiring to perform the very basic administrative functions.
In recognition of his outstanding successes and achievements in teaching as well as educational administration, Prof Noman had occasionally been honoured with various national awards. Awards are manifestations of recognition. But it is widely felt in our country that such recognitions often prove unjustified or that the awards do not go to the deserving hands. There happens to be some political diplomatic manoeuvres in the dispensation of awards. Exceptions are, however, there and I tend to believe that the awards going to Prof Noman were some instances of exception. The awards and recognitions in his case were more than justified.
The second reason of my knowing Prof Noman was his unique personality blended with the twin virtues of honesty and righteousness. I need to mention here that I have found the experiences of those who had been fortunate to be his direct students as the source of my knowledge about his personality. When a teacher is the architect of building a man, he cannot limit himself in being only a source of knowledge, he rather has to raise his own self to a real human being. Devoid of honesty and integrity, a man may become a scholar of international stature; but cannot be an architect of building other men. His credentials would be limited to printed texts alone; he would not find himself in the height for touching the people's hearts. That Professor Noman was a teacher in the truest sense of the term is evident in the simple fact that I am offering my homage to this noble soul despite myself not being one of his direct students or close acquaintances.
I have a third reason for knowing Prof Noman: the unique blending of scholastic traits and humility in his personality. Prof Noman was a striking exception in the crowded arena of our scholars. It is hard to find a happy combination of knowledge, humility, righteousness and the skills needed for role performance. But, as far as I could go in knowing Prof Noman, I can quite safely and confidently state that he was a man of outstanding height. I feel privileged to have availed of this rare opportunity to pay homage to Professor Mohammad Noman.

Syed Anwar Hussain is a Professor of Dhaka University and a former Director General of Bangla Academy.

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