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Flood and Bangladesh

By Zafeer A. Khan

'It's almost a synonym. Every year the low-lying areas of our country get inundated with water. It might not be devastating every year but I sometimes wonder the patience of the people who have to become nomads once every year. And when I went to my village last month I saw a small 'chor' (temporary island), on the Padma River, filled with houses. It's almost like instead of cultivating crops on those islands people have turned them into dense residential areas! My father says floods used to occur every ten years in the past. So the culprit? Global warming. What crepuscular sin we have done to deserve this? We are already burdened with poverty and corruption and now we can add a natural disaster to the list.

Where the 150 million people of this country will go when it is completely submerged in water, the answer remains a conundrum. Worst, no one is worried about it. I think as usual everyone feels some sort of serendipity will save us in the end, since sometimes people knowingly overload a passenger ferry and head-off towards bad weather. My sister once did a report on the overloading of passenger ferries during before Eid. When she asked an old man at Sadarghat about to board a ferry, why he isn't worried about the probability of the ferry sinking with so many passengers on board, he casually replied life and death is in the hands of God and he has no control over them. A foreign exchange student from Netherlands was with her and after hearing this she was so astonished she included this incident in her report of our country. The authorities concerned either give us verisimilitudes that everything is fine or draw up quixotic ideas. At least that is what it seems since I don't see any improvement of the situation. As far as I know the only option is to build dykes in the littoral areas. Look at Hungary; they used to have floods like us and now, no problemo! Fine, building dykes will probably cost billions of dollars. But at least for a change we could use money for the welfare of the people of the country; instead of buying fighter planes whose maintenance cost is too high for us, or buying frigates that move back when it is in front gear!

I believe the long run benefits will far surpass the costs. And if we continue to disregard this problem it will become our bane. People coming from foreign countries are amazed by the pulchritude of our country. They are surprised that when we have so fertile soils, so lush green landscapes and so many floras how can we be in poverty? My chemistry teacher once said it is waste of resources. England is covered by snow for six months and their climate is not very suitable for crops. Also size-wise they are not very big, but still they can produce all their own food. And we can't. So maybe floods destroy our crops or greatly reduce the space available for cultivation. All economists say that a country can never stand on its own feet as long as it has to import food. Also the cost of rebuilding infrastructure will be greatly reduced since we won't have to make the same roads again and again every year, though the authorities seem to enjoy this as they mostly break the roads and rebuild them again when mother nature doesn't help to do the breaking.

Secondly our population density is very high and floods make this even worse. Though I am surprised that during the '97 floods people did not come pouring into the drier parts of Dhaka for shelter. My parents were even prepared for any village relative that came to seek shelter at our house. My English teacher who lived in Baridhara had to come to drier parts of Gulshan by a small boat (for Tk.20) and then travel by car to school. Must have been very interesting for her since she included a photo of that experience in that year's school magazine. While those of us living in Dhanmondi carried on our usual lifestyles without any heed of the flood ravaging the rest of the country.

Third, the impression of our country, alas, will change if the floods can be stopped. My friend's twelve-year-old cousin came to Bangladesh, for the first time from USA, a few weeks back. On the way from the airport he pointed to some empty lands with a few 'tiner ghors' and asked if my friend lived in a house like that. All the Western world seems to know about us is floods, poverty, cyclones and more floods. Whereas I believe our country has got great potential for all types of things may it be tourism or development. This year the flood seems to be pretty bad but it still remains to be seen, since the worst is yet to come until August is over.

Finally the people are not properly informed about floods. It is only after a lot of time has passed does the newspaper make the situation a headline. Well, I guess no use blaming them since they probably have taken floods to be a way of "Bangali' lifestyle.


summer jobs

By Sabrina F.Ahmed

Summer time means holidays…endless hours of sunshine, loads of time to kill. Even for someone who's been furiously overworked before the advent of the holidays, more than a couple of days of this idyllic existence would invariably lead to boredom. Those who are able to do so could take off for a holiday abroad. The rest of us, to give credit where it's due, still have a lot of entertainment options available to us the usual hangouts, the summer concerts, blockbuster movies on TV, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, most of these options require a steady supply of cash, and even if that were available, how long these options can keep one entertained is anyone's guess. Hence a lot of youngsters today have found a fruitful way to utilize some of the free time in summer: by doing summer jobs.

What I'm going to right now, is to give you a lowdown on the three most popular summer jobs that O and A level graduates do over here. Why I chose this age group is because those who are younger have less avenues open to them, and those who are older usually get into a job that lasts beyond just a summer. So if you're an O/A level graduate on the lookout for work, start paying attention, because the next few paragraphs could prove most enlightening.

1.Teaching: Okay, so you've just undergone the GCE exams, and have a lot of fresh information bubbling in your think-tank. The quickest way to make a tidy bundle is to share the knowledge. Well, there are two ways to do this: a) you become a house-tutor, and b) join a school. Minimum requirements for either job are good grades in the subject to intend to teach (many parents today would want to look at your mark sheets, so be careful), and good communication skills. Now let's take a closer look at what either job entails:

(a)Home tutoring: Pros: You can choose your own working hours, and take a few days off whenever you have to. You're your own boss, and the size of your income depends on the number of students you teach. A typical O-level graduate can demand and expect a salary of Tk 1000-1500 per student, while an A-level graduate, who can easily teach O level subjects can reasonably expect Tk 2000-3000 per student. Of course, these numbers may vary with individual students, but these are more or less the standard ranges. From the students' perspective, a one-to-one learning experience, or even a group (provided it is a small group) study session, supervised by a teacher who is close to the students' age is very conducive to learning. This is because the younger teacher is more flexible and creative in his/her teaching methods, and is better able to communicate with the students because he/she can see things from the students' perspective. Cons? The only one I can think of is the fact that you are solely responsible for your student's performance, and so if the kid doesn't bring home that A, the first person the parents will blame is you.

(b)Teaching in School: Okay, at first glance, compared to home tutoring, this job might seem restrictive. You have to abide by the school's timings, (which often involves early mornings) and the school rules, and your salary is fixed by the school, so it might be less than what you could earn as a home tutor. The work is also harder than that of a home tutor, because you'll invariably be working with a larger group of children. Another problem is that schools usually prefer to employ, even on a temporary basis, A-level students as compared to O-level students, for obvious reasons.

Even then, this job has its perks. For one thing, there's a lot more variety in the kind of work you have to do, like projects and different activities. Teaching in a school is a learning experience in itself, plus, working with other teachers can do a lot towards developing your interpersonal skills. Let's not forget the fun things about working in school: the class parties, the field trips, and the science fairs…things that are usually sponsored by the school, so you get a good time for free. Finally, the school you work for, provided you do a good job, will provide you with a recommendation, which counts a lot when you're applying to universities, here and abroad.

2.Interning at an NGO: Okay, people…I don't know exactly how to go about getting into one, but I know that a lot of young people, mostly between their O and A levels, are doing short stints for various NGO's. The work varies with the kind of NGO, so you could find yourself doing anything from helping conduct a survey for a research program to working with disabled children at a hospital. In many cases, the work is voluntary, i.e., you don't get paid, so maybe in the strictest sense of the word, it really isn't a 'job'. However, needless to say, it is an enlightening experience, and a rewarding one. One of my friends worked for UCEP for a short while, and one of her jobs was to go and interview slum-dwellers about their opinion of the organization. She says some of the experiences she had during her interaction with her interviewees, taught her a lot about the beauty of human spirit, and she's a much wiser person now. The minimum requirements for this kind of work would most likely be a good grasp of the English language (in case you're asked to proofread texts), some basic computer skills, and basically a willingness to devote your time to a worthy cause.

3.Working for a teen magazine, like RS: By rights, this is a very popular job, since a lot of people would love to work here, or for the other youth magazines, like the Young Observer, and the Young Independent, to name a few. The very basic requirements for this kind of work would be a good grasp of the English language (not really necessary if you want to write for a Bangla youth magazine, which is another fun experience in itself), some basic computer skills, and loads and loads of creativity. Even then, because these magazines usually operate with a specified team of writers (those who actually get paid for their work), getting into one is very, very difficult, and you'd have to have references, at least from someone who's already working there. By the way, RS is inundated with writers, so chances are getting in are very, very low (read: impossible) at the moment. I think the other magazines would be easier to approach.

If you do manage to get the golden ticket into this job, it's a load of fun. If you've been following my "Rising Soap" (tee hee, a quick bit of advertising here), you'll know that life is never dull at a newspaper office. There are always loads of work to be done, places to visit, people to interview, etc. Not that it's easy. You'll be expected to actively participate in the brainstorming every week where we decide what to write about, and if you can't volunteer a good idea at least once in two weeks, you're dead meat. 'Deadline' is another word that is painfully incorporated into your weekly vocabulary, and there's hardly a fate worse than facing the consequences of meeting one of those. Also, if you write an article that doesn't go down well with the readers, man, are you in trouble! Even so, at the end of the day, there's a certain amount of satisfaction in seeing your name in print. Yes, they even pay you for it.

Well, that's it, folks…the three most popular summer jobs for O/A level graduates. Hope I've been able to clarify a few points. If you have any more ideas, let us know. For now, have a great summer!






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