Liberate the History Lesson of Apathy
Saad Adnan Khan
It's a shame. That should be the remark when we consider the shallow way Liberation war is treated in history lessons in our schools. It is a serious disgrace the way the teachers take the matter so lightly when it comes to teaching the students something that plays an integral role in determining our identities. Being a student from an English medium school, I remember our history course didn't have any chapter on the liberation war. We chose to expound on the colourful chapters of the Oxford History series from grades four to eight. All I remember is 'learning' with much agony about the 'golden' history in our Bangla class and memorising a few of dates, a few names of male martyrs, and some statistics: 'the number of people who lost lives during the war: three million'. That is the shell that is presented to the children and youth in our educational institutions, even in the subject called Bangladesh Studies. The shell that is not only superficial, but also successfully glorifies the dark history by denoting the period as 'golden', for which the students might get a picture of the victory, but not the genocide that was the price of this freedom The students are not bothered about delving deeper into the subject after they have successfully memorised the dates and names for quizzes, thus they fail to acquaint themselves deeply with their own history. Of course the students cannot be blamed, because still being a part of a highly colonised education system, the teachers in so many schools choose to teach Robinson Crusoe (Bible of British imperialism), use colonised terms to write formal applications (yours faithfully, I beg for your permission) and Oxford History that makes the students 'memorise' (once again) tidbits of world history, but inevitably makes them blissfully ignorant about the history of their country.
An undeniable sense of guilt and shame cripples me when I realise that till a phase of my life, I had no idea about the significance of the liberation war of 71. The education system that shaped me clearly could not care less in giving me a proper lesson of the war with depth and integrity. As a grown up now, I feel the urge and necessity to find out more and more about the war. However, our education system lacks in any such change. Instead of stultifying the students by maundering simply dates and names, teachers could rely on so many new sources now to bring the students back from this ignorance. An apt example I could think of is one of the letters from the book Ekatturer chithi that students and teachers could actually consider for a stimulating conversation about the war, by discussing the emotions stored behind the letter. The lesson could prove to develop a sense of love and empathy not only for the country, but also for the people who fought the war or experienced it firsthand. Such lectures seem to possess no trait of violence either, in case teachers might come up with the lazy assumption that lessons on the liberation war might expose students to violence. It's about 'knowing' and not memorizing the history of our own country.
Of course one can say that kids cannot possibly comprehend the significance of our muktijuddho. However that should not be the excuse for any teacher (teachers and parents) to actually keep the children out of reach of any such discourse and not mention the history once in a while, because in doing so, the children are stripped of one of the rudimentary elements that define identity. The result would be a feeling of alienation and disconnection from the history that has shaped us all. Can't the teachers end the class by saying, 'Love your country children! And the people who fought for her, because for these amazingly brave people, we are free!' Classes on liberation war would not only help us understand so many current incidents going on in Bangladesh and Pakistan, but also inculcate a sense of responsibility for our motherland that so many of us lack today.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009