Photos: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
There was a time when this particular place was more than just an educational institution. This haven once (trying its best even today) provided the best environment to the young minds to learn, think, mingle and to live. It is that academy, where numerous legends are made every day, since inception, to lead the country. With a glorious history of 175 years; Dhaka College is one of the oldest educational institutions in Indian Subcontinent.
History says that Dhaka College first started its journey on 15 July, 1835, as an English Seminary School, under the initiative of the General Committee of Public Instruction. The committee submitted a report to Lord William Bentinck, the then Governor-General of India, asking to be establish as many as educational institute to teach English literature and science in the major populated cities of Bengal Presidency (the largest colonial subdivision of British India at that time). It is said that since then through the various processes, the school was established by Dr. James Taylor, the then Civil Surgeon and Mr. Grant; the District Magistrate of Dhaka. Later in 1841, the school developed its college (classes 11 and 12) section that was known as 'Dhaka Central College', then as 'Dhaka College' and the school section was named 'Dhaka Collegiate School'.
With the tagline 'Know Thyself', now located in Mirpur road, adjacent to the New Market, Dhaka College went through a lot of location changes from the beginning. “Dhaka College was respectively situated at the Curzon Hall, University of Dhaka, Old High Court Building, Islamic Intermediate College (presently, Kabi Nazrul Government College) and later in an old building of Khan Bahadur Abdul Hai in Siddique Bazar, Fulbaria”, says Professor Moazzem Hossain Molla, the current Principal of Dhaka College. Finally, in 1955, Dhaka College was re- established with its present permanent campus on 18 acres of land.
At present, along with the intermediate sections, the college has 19 distinct departments for undergraduate and post graduate programmes, under the National University. Approximately, more than 20,000 students are pursuing their education here. Also, there are eight dormitories for the students—South Hall, North Hall, International Hall, West Hall, Elias Hall, Shaheed Farhad Hossain Hall, Southern Hall and Sheikh Kamal Hall. The garden in front of the main academic building and the pond adjacent to the large playground create a calming environment for the students.
Dhaka College has always been quite vocal when it comes to the annual results and other educational activities. There are many legends who were the alumni of this institution, for example, Zillur Rahman, the 19th President of Bangladesh, A Q M Badruddoza Chowdhury, the 13th President of Bangladesh, Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder and Chairman of BRAC, Humayun Ahmed, writer and film maker, Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury Bir Bikram, the Energy Adviser to the Prime Minister, Abdul Matin Chowdhury, the 14th Vice-chancellor of University of Dhaka, AAMS Arefin Siddique, the current and the 27th Vice-chancellor of University of Dhaka and many more.
But, it is quite dissatisfactory that comparing to the previous glory, heritage aspects and reputation, it is believed that the prior image of Dhaka College has almost lost its dignity.
“The various problems we are suffering from have no end”, says 25-year-old Rakibul Hasan (not his real name), a final year student of the college, Department of Islamic History and Culture. “Destructive student politics, interference in admission process and conflicts, and students' absence in classroom are now the main reasons that are tarnishing our glory”, he states. Contrary to his statement, the principal said that now they follow the online admission system of the National University and there is no chance of any lobbying. “Also, on the issue of destructive student politics, I don't think we should blame the whole institution for certain people”, states Professor Molla.
Besides the irregularities, the campus needs a reformation system, as many buildings and dormitories are not in good condition. The 'Shaheed Minar' inside the campus needs to be renovated. Some of the students claimed that the temporary room used for the medical treatment of the students has been closed for a long time. But the principal denies this and according to him, the treatment facility is open twice a week (Saturday and Sunday).
“At the dormitories, at least 10-12 students are packed into most of the rooms, where it is said by the campus authority that only six students are allowed to live in one room”, says Asif Rahman (not his real name), a 3rd year student, Department of History of the college. “Apart from these, engineers have already recommended the Elias Hall to be abandoned immediately, but we are living there, as living outside the halls is quite expensive now-a-days”, he adds.
However, despite all the problems, the students and the authority are hoping to bring back the prior environment of Dhaka College and thinking that if necessary steps are taken to develop the entire system, it is not very tough to regain the lost reputation.