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     Volume 5 Issue 116 | October 13, 2006 |

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News Notes

The State of Higher Education
The standard of higher education in the country has plummeted sharply; instances of Bangladeshi postgraduates serving menial labour in European countries are not rare any more. When universities in neighbouring countries like Singapore or India are producing one Nobel Prize-winning scientists after another, our once-famous universities and their teachers have kept themselves busy in local politics. Politicisation is so rampant in our universities that there are certain departments and institutions where candidates belonging only to a certain panel are appointed; in many cases it is Blue, in some it is Pink, and in the rest it is White. Anyone who is not well versed in Bangladesh's teacher-politics must know that university teachers have formed different panels only to name them thus to contest the elections for different posts of the varsity. This rivalry at times goes down to promotion, selection of candidates for training abroad or giving grant for research work.
Some, for quick-cash, teach at the private universities; even though it is illegal to do so. The others indulge themselves in even viler practise-- offering consultancy to different local and international companies in the city.
Our Constitution requires that education in the country should be free for all. But authorities of different universities at the same time are raising fees one year after another; several private universities have been established, making education a commodity like rice or flour. The signal is unmistakably simple and straightforward-- one who has got enough money in the bank should dare come to the campus to be educated, and the rest may go astray.
This line of thinking coincides with an incident that has taken place lately in Rajshahi University. "Students who cannot afford to buy admission form should not aspire to study in the university, they would rather enrol at madrassas," Professor Altaf Hossain, Vice-Chancellor of Rajshahi University, last Monday said to a group of students. Hossain's comment is preposterous and makes us wonder how deep our educational system has sunk that someone like him, nescient that he is, can hold the highest post of a university. If he had any shred of conscience left in him or had not thought of education as a commodity, would not have uttered such a base and irresponsible comment.
The time has come to repair these damages. And the sooner it is done the better.

Even Cops Get Mugged
Although this is supposed to be a holy month this has not stopped criminals from carrying on with their usual activities. The public is tired of the apathetic, ineffectual role played by the law enforcers who often just stand by while people get mugged. But sometimes even law enforcers fall victim to muggers. Last week a police officer was mugged while he was going home to Dhaka from Chittagong on a passenger bus. According to a Daily Star report the officer, ate some iftar when the bus reached Comilla after which he became unconscious. The muggers took his mobile phone and money. When the bus reached Dhaka the police officer was found unconscious and taken to Rajarbagh Police lines Hospital. According to a Sub-Inspector oif Khilfgaon police station, a criminal gang known as Agyan Party may have been involved and had probably mixed some drug in the food that was served to the victim in Comilla.
This goes to show that criminals will find many ways to dupe people, even those who are supposed to catch them!

Minu's Advice to City Dwellers
It seems that the fasting is getting to the politicians and vice chancellors of the country. This week Rajshahi University Vice Chancellor shocked students and civil society by saying that if students could not afford to buy admission forms they should just consider studying at madrasas! But one ludicrous comment was only clouded by another equally ludicrous comment from mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation, Mizanur Rahman Minu.
While answering queries from journalists during a views exchange meeting prior to an iftar party organised at the City Bhaban the lawmaker was quoted saying, "Please wait a few more days, winter is near and demands for power and water will decrease then.”
Perhaps someone should inform the respected mayor that it might be very comfortable for him in his air-conditioned room with generator back up to while away till winter arrives but not everyone has the same luxury. And summer comes only a few months afterwards when problems of water and power and water can only get worse. So instead of looking to nature to solve power problems it is about time that practical steps were taken to solve something as crucial as this.

North Korea's Nuclear Test
North Korea's nuclear test on Monday shook the world in more ways than one. Eight years ago, India and Pakistan shocked the world with their underground atomic blasts. This week, the North's test means that the US nuclear supremacy in East Asia has collapsed, as has the counter-proliferation policy set by the US. India and Pakistan became the sixth and seventh declared nuclear powers respectively and now, the eight position has been taken up by North Korean. Beijing remains one of North's few remaining allies. It's also a major supplier of energy and monetary aid to the secretive regime in Pyongyang and wants stability on the Korean peninsula. An international crisis on its doorstep is the last thing China wants and it has therefore condemned the nuclear test. The test has apparently damaged relations between the two countries and there is embarrassment mixed with anger as North Korea had gone ahead with their plans regardless of China's repeated appeals. There is, perhaps, a limit to the influence that China has in Pyongyang though it fears that by completely stopping aid to North Korea, the regime in Pyongyang might totally collapse. If the Kim Jong-Il regime falls, there will surely be a flood of refugees into China, a situation Beijing wants to avoid. North Korea's neighbours remains tense to the whole situation. China has apparently cancelled leave for troops along its North Korea border while South Korean forces have been ordered to stay alert. South Korea fears that the North's actions might spark up a nuclear arms build-up in neighbouring countries, though Japan, the only nation to suffer an atomic attack, has vowed not to develop the deadly weapon. The test followed Kim Jong-Il's ninth anniversary as the ruling party chief using his military first tactics.

North Korea's claim sparked angry protests in the South

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