Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 49, Tuesday June 14, 2005

 

 

 

Reflections

My Memorable Years spent In Africa

The meeting took place at 3.P.M and we, all the lecturers and professors, sat around Mr. Tony Kerton, the Head of Civil Engineering Department, as he chaired the meeting. As I was the newcomer, Mr. Kerton welcomed me first and asked me to give details of my experiences, both about my students and the subject I was teaching. When I finished my speech he said, looking at the backbenches, "Any comments from the students?" I was so surprised because I had no such idea that any of my students could be allowed to sit in the teacher's meeting to evaluate teachers' performance level! Two Botswana students from each semester were sitting at the back. My students commented that I was just fine but too fast in my speech. Mr. Kerton requested me to slowdown in delivering lectures. Well, this system of open discussion between teachers and students fascinated me a lot. That way I think we teachers can fine-tune our message to adjust to our students' level of understandings. Unfortunately, we lack this opportunity in Bangladesh.

There were two campuses for Botswana Polytechnic on both sides of the main road. The civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering departments were on one side and Electrical, Education departments and the library were on the other side of the road.

Two months had passed since I was teaching, then one day Mr. Kerton asked me to see the Heads of both Mechanical and Electrical departments as they had decided to give me a few classes for their diploma courses. So, I became terribly busy teaching in all these three departments, but I must say I enjoyed teaching there, as there was no political disturbances, or no unruly students to handle.

In the meantime we went to Maefeking, the check post town bordering South Africa, we spent the whole day there. As things were quite cheap there, most people from Gaborone used to go there for shopping. The road from Gaborone to Maefeking was simply wonderful. You hardly feel you are driving or sitting inside a car and you hardly see any people walking beside the road because as I said before, Botswana is thinly populated. I was wondering about the huge sized rocks placed artistically on both side of the road. At first you will think some artists must have created those but the fact is that those are all nature's work. At one place there were three different sized rocks placed one after another, and I was thinking that in case someone just gives a little push they would all tumble down because the smallest sized one was lying on the earth and the other two bigger ones were on top of it placed like hanging tables.

Next few weeks I was terribly busy with my students, as they were all about to leave the campus for participating in the Industrial Training. They were to come back in the campus after six months of their attachment with various companies or firms. So, I had only diploma courses to handle but I had to go to Botswana Agricultural College to teach a few of my students who went there for their Industrial training. Usually I used to help these students in writing reports on their experiences that they gained in those six month's training. I feel, this way the students learn practically on how to communicate at various levels of an organization. When they came back to the campus they were full of enthusiasm and were impatient to pour down their newly gained knowledge to me. That time I really enjoyed their lively, active participation in the classroom discussion.

I have always found them very keen in their studies and lively in classroom participation.

Every now and then, whenever polytechnic was closed and my children had their school holydays, we used to visit different places in a group. I still remember very fondly my Bangladeshi, Indian, South-African, Batswana, Zimbabwean, a few Chinese friends and particularly one Iranian family. Our Iranian friend Manuser was a very interesting person. He and his wife Carla, a South Africa based Indian lady, were our regular week-end guests. Manuser used to talk about Iran a lot. One day I was asking him whether he likes any particular fruit very much and whether that one is rarely grown in Iran. Well, I was surprised when he said its banana and it is imported and is very expensive in Iran. Carla was very fond of my three children. Every time Carla came to visit us, I used to notice amusingly as she came almost running towards my children (who were playing in the front garden) crying out loudly, "O' my little Angels!" The children were all very fond of her too. I could feel her loneliness, as she did not have any children although she had been married for about 10 years.

Some memories are very powerful, they never fade away. That's why some beautiful places that I visited are still fresh in my mind .Its like if I just close my eyes I can feel I am there even after all these years have passed. I had to travel to various places from Polytechnic and I used to travel to few places all alone. I used to love to take long distance trips. Especially, when there was a heavy downpour, I loved to drive and listen to Tagore songs until the rain stopped.

When winter approached we were planning to go to Johannesburg. I was eagerly waiting to meet the real South African black people. Although I had the opportunity to interact with Batswana people, I hardly met any of the native black South Africans.

To be continued:
By Suraiya Zafar


Reader's chit

When Stress Strikes

Stress. Everybody goes through it. It is an inevitable part of life, but the key factor here lies in one's ability to deal with it. When stress crops up eventually one deals with it but the methodology of coping up with stress differentiates from person to person and the lifestyle of the person influences this process. And that's when this troublesome psychological phenomenon strikes.

Medically speaking, our body naturally responds to any perceived threat by releasing hormones to enable us to either confront the danger or make a quick getaway all together known as the "fight or flight response." And when the danger is over, the stress response should switch off. But if the chemical response fails to switch off and carries on too long, then it causes distress and health problems whenever pressure outstrips and fluctuates one's ability to cope up with stress. The inevitable result of such episode is an unhealthy amount of stress.

There are several signs which indicate that a person is under unhealthy stress. These include physical symptoms such as palpitations, tiredness, skin problems, frequent colds or stomach upsets with emotional signs like mood swings, increased worrying, feeling tense and having low self-esteem along with behavioral symptoms like increased smoking and drinking, problems in sleeping, loss of appetite, loss of sex drive, irritability and taking more work at home.

A healthy mind builds a healthy body. Stress takes its toll on one's body and it is indeed a matter of great concern as the effects can be detrimental. Suffering from headaches, stomach problems, back strains are common for a person under stress, but stress can lead to some long term serious health problems. Experts suggest that stress can cause problems with the heart and cardiovascular system, including stroke and raised blood pressure. Scientists have found out that people who are highly stressed have a greater risk of fatal strokes than those who say they are stress-free. Although there is a connection between mental stress and stroke, physical stressors, most notably sleep deprivation along with other emotional factors such as fear and anger also contribute to the cause of stroke. The most likely suspect for stroke is a person who suffers from chronic stress, which results from the gradual buildup of irritation, tension and worry that can take place over the course of many months and years. When stroke occurs, part of the brain is deprived of oxygen and is damaged, leading to a wide range of possible neurologic symptoms including paralysis, difficulty with speaking, and memory and vision disturbances.

The links between stress and heart problems are fairly convincing as studies have found out that stress can cause fatal heart attacks. Depression, anger and anxiety can cause fatal stroke. Depression, for instance, is a result of prolonged stress. There is concrete evidence that depression leads to grave heart diseases including stroke. Being depressed doubles the chances of coronary heart disease in men and those who are depressed are three times more likely to develop heart disease than those without. Hostility or anger also triggers the risk of terminal heart diseases. Hostility alone increases the risk of almost any physical illness let alone heart disease. Studies have found out that anger doubles the likelihood of having a heart attack and stroke as well.

It is not possible to ignore stress from life. But there are ways to minimise it. In order to promote a sense of balance in one's life and create outlets for stress one can take up hobbies, meditation and exercise. The basic aim of stress management is to recognise the root causes of stress and find ways of managing the pressure without causing harm to one's health. One also needs to bring some discipline in life, like quitting smoking and drinking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet , reducing weight and checking blood pressure regularly. If the situation does not improve, even after applying these basic stress management strategies, then it is best to take the advice of professionals as soon as possible.

By Obaidur Rahman


 
 

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