By Adnan M. S. Fakir
We are probably the most idiosyncratic generation of blemished and spoiled bunch of brats Bangladesh has ever seen. Okay, maybe that's saying a bit too much, but at least a large portion of us are. Why? Let me share with you a very rare, unique and extreme case of absurdity. We were celebrating Victory Day in school and our performance included a scene from Ekattorer Dinguli by Jahanara Imam. After the performance when I came down to the audience, I heard one kid in Class 7 asking another kid, “Ajke ki hoisilo re? (What had happened today?)” If I can, through writing, make you understand the fury those words generated in my mind, I would consider myself the greatest writer in the world, which I am unfortunately not. Anyways, I hope this answers your question.
I find the necrotic attitude of a large portion of students of the ‘new generation' towards knowing about our Liberation War history not only shocking, but amazing. It's almost like they are a dead set- that no matter what happens, they will not learn about the history of Bangladesh. Apparently, they like to be updated about 'cool' stuff, like Lady Marmalade dancing almost nude on stage and the exact number of seconds when Johnny Depp had winked in Dead Man's Chest. Unfortunately, knowing about your own country, about why you get to call yourself a Bangladeshi now, has less priority and is not worth knowing.
I cannot possibly remember how many had accounted 16th December to be our Independence Day and had managed to stir up chaos and potent volcanic eruptions in my otherwise sane mind. Sadly enough, even 'smart and educated' growing Bangladeshis who know a lot about the Great War, World War II, French Revolution and etc know almost nothing about our Liberation War and make such mistakes. For those idiots who are still wondering, 16th December is our Victory Day; 26th March is our Independence Day.
The Liberation War General Facts Survey
Story being told, we decided to conduct a multiple choice questions (MCQ) survey across Dhaka, as much as possible, with basic general knowledge questions regarding Bangladesh's liberation for ranging Class groups of 7-10 and 11-12. Shortened survey questions and their correct answers are reproduced below. Try them out yourself and see how many of them you know… considering the country's current situation, I'll tell you the hawkers' secret market place if you can get all of them right!
(1) In which year did the Pakistani Forces open fire on the Language Movement protestors on 21st February?
(2) Where did the killings take place?
(3) Which monument was constructed to honor the victims of the Language Movement?
(4) Who and when was 21st February declared as the International Mother Language Day?
(5) Who was the Pakistani president during the time of the war?
(6) On the afternoon of 7th March, 1971, where did Sheikh Mujibur Rahman deliver his famous speech?
(7) On the night of 25th March, the Pakistani soldiers head out to eliminate the Bangladeshi resistance. What was the operation named?
(8) Approximately 7000 people were killed in the single night and a Hindu Dormitory of Dhaka University was destroyed? What is the name of the Hall?
(9) On 26 March, Bangladesh was declared as Independent from Kalurghat Radio Station. What was the Radio Station called?
(10) What is the significance of 16th December?
(11) Where did the Pakistani Army surrender, in written, to the Allied Forces?
(12) How long did the Liberation War last?
(13) Where was the original flag of Bangladesh first raised?
(14) Where is National Martyr's Memorial/ Srity Shodh situated?
(1) 1952 (2) Near Dhaka Medical College (3) Shaheed Minar (4) UNESCO, 1999 (5) Yahya Khan (6) Race Court Moidan (7) Operation Searchlight (8) Jagannath Hall (9) Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendro (10) Victory Day (11) Suharwardy Udyan (12) 9 months (13) Dhaka University (14) Savar
The Survey Results
As one can easily see, the survey was balanced between some extremely easy and intermediate level questions. To keep the survey valid, diverse and unbiased, it was conducted on students from various institutions all over Dhaka including Academia, Adroit International, Aga Khan, Dhaka Residential Model College, Dhanmondi Tutorial, European Standard School (ESS), Green Herald, Mastermind, Monipur School, Notre Dame College, Oxford International School, Rajuk, Scholastica, School of Development Alternative (SODA), Sunbeams, Sunnydale, South Breeze, Viquarunnesa and those applying for their board exams in Private. The Results of the Survey were more shocking than expected; they are given in the table below, and you can judge them yourself.
I found a comment by one of the surveyors pretty amusing, “I was shocked to see how little students today know about 1971. Some were reluctant to fill the questionnaire up, in fear that their bad performances may affect their school's reputation.” Well, they were right in some sense. The results above do clearly reflect their fear, and impedes the reputation of Bangladesh as a whole. Come on, if in total 21.5%, that is 65 people out of 300 cannot say that 16th December is our Victory Day, it is a matter of shame. The only reason I am so bent on this question is because it is really disappointing as to where our generations are leading. On average 38.9% of each question in the survey was answered wrong. Please look at each question and compare whether you got it right and the percentage of it answered wrong. The results are certainly very disturbing. Just think how pathetic we are!
The questionnaire being of MCQ format, each of the questions had four answers to choose the correct one from, and thus each question has a 25% chance of being right by guess. This apparently really boosted the results as commented by a surveyor, “I myself am discovering a considerable amount about how much the young generation of Bangladesh know, and their 'Guessing Powers'!” Without a doubt, if the survey was not MCQ, the results would be much more disastrous than it already is.
What I also find really depressing is that no school has any specific courses or has taken any major steps in teaching the history of our liberation war to students. In most cases the Bengali Department is the only dept. that seems to be a little bit interested in actually teaching our culture, heritage and history. All that most of the schools and teachers are concerned about is making the students pass the courses and securing “A” in the board exams.
I personally have learned more about our liberation war and history after coming to the US. We were studying genocidal incidents in history and we studied Bangladesh as a case, where we had to study about the entire war including many minute details. It is simply sad to think that foreign institutions study about our war whereas we go and crunch on counting the number of “As” we have earned. I am not saying getting As is bad. It is obviously necessary and very much appreciated, but at the same time we should not neglect studying about our own history, which has higher priority in many ways.
Most Pakistani schools have “Pakistan Studies” as a compulsory course for the O Levels. We also have “Bangladesh Studies” as a course in the O Levels, but it is not even offered as a subject in most of our English medium schools. Chittagong Grammar School has, in the recent years, made the course compulsory for all O' Level students, which I believe is a great step, and should be done in all other schools. The Bangladesh Studies course curriculum not only covers material from the Pre-Mughal period to the formation of Bangladesh, including details about the war, but also geographical and cultural heritages and the influences of major figures of Bangladesh. In many US schools, US history is taught for three years and world history is taught for just one. Okay, I guess this variation is not properly balanced and is not right, but at least they are learning. We on the other hand study chapters after chapters on history of the world, but just study a single chapter which is even indirectly related to our war in the renowned “Amar Boi” book in class 7 or 8, and that is the end. This has to be properly balanced.
The most primary and important source for anyone's education is their parents. Most of our parents and grandparents have been there during the time of war and should teach and talk to their children about it. We are the ones who should also be interested in knowing. It will be a huge shame if we do not grasp this opportunity that we have, which future generations will not. Bug your parents to talk to you about those hard times. Know their personal experiences and by no doubt, you will be benefited in a lot of ways.
I know the mindset of people cannot be changed with just an article and a survey. However I urge all of you to please know about your own country's history. If you don't know much about it, ask your parents about it or access Google and Wikipedia and learn about the war. As an ending note, I request all schools and institutions to at least take some steps towards solving this future national identity crisis. We are basically caving in our culture, history and heritage if we don't. Even if not a course, at least a month or even a week long compulsory seminar will be really helpful. The least we can do to respect the martyrs of our war, who created Bangladesh, is to know about them and the history; let us please not deprive ourselves from doing even so.
Doing and getting the survey together was the hardest job and has been possible thanks to Abdur Rahman, Ahsan Sajid, Anika Tabassum, Faria Sanjana, Hitoishi Chakma, Iftikhar Azam, Manat Afsana Hamid, Ashfaque Kabir, Nayeema Reza, Osama Rahman, Reesana Sifat Siraj, S. S. Emil, Shehtaz Huq, Shuprova Tasneem, Wajed-Al-Rahman and Waqar Ahmed who conducted the survey, and to all those who participated!