Principal Hosne Ara Ahmed:
A Long Life in Teaching
“All my children are settled abroad. This is not to my credit, they did it all on their own. But Sylhet Women's College is my happiest memory and I am glad to have been part of such an institution,” said Principal Hosne Ara Ahmed.
Hosne Ara Ahmed, who has done much towards women's education all her life, is still involved with education. She is the Chair of the Managing Committee and Founding Principal of Shishu School, a school near her house at the city's housing estate.
She was the younger of two daughters of the successful lawyer Abdul Wahab Chowdhury and Muhibunnesa Chowdhury. “I got admitted into the Williams Memorial Middle English School at Nayasarak Area in Sylhet town,” she narrates. “It was up to Class VI at the time. People used to call it “Padri School” as it was run by missionaries”. She remembers that special stress was given on English and the Bible.
“Then I got admitted into the Sylhet Pilot Girls High School at the city's Zindabazar area. Mrs. Majumder was the Headmistress that time,” Hosne Ara continues. “We used to call her “Boro Mashima”. She had a great personality. I got the first prize in an essay contest and was awarded Chandrima Shundari gold medal when I was a student of Class IX.
Without her mother's help Hosne Ara would not have been able to continue her education. But, just after the exams, she lost her father. Later she moved to Calcutta to do her MA. She got married to Dr. Shamsuddin Ahmed, a surgeon in the Health Department. With two children, she prepared for her Bengali exams.
After she got offered a job from Sylhet Mohila College she joined with full support from her husband. Girindra Chandra was Principal that time. Hosne Ara took over as Principal after Girindra Chandra retired in 1958. She served as principal for 21 years. The college was nationalized in1980. She retired in 1982.
Hosne Ara Ahmed praised the District Administration, especially the Deputy Commissioners for playing important roles in the colleges development. Sylhet Mohila College is now a government college with a big auditorium, a big hostel and academic buildings. There are currently over a thousand students in the honors classes.
Hosne Ara was also a member of Academic Council of Dhaka University and Chittagong University. Besides, she served as member of the Board of Intermediate & Secondary Education (BISE), Comilla for a long time. She also served as the Chairman of the Sylhet district unit of Jatiya Mohila Sangstha, Chair of the Federation of University, Sylhet Chapter. She is also an active member of organizations like Jalalabad Ondho Kalyan Samity and NATAB as well as of the Sylhet Education Trust. She has earned love, respect and admiration from countless students.
She had lost her husband, Dr. Shamsuddin Ahmed in the Liberation War. Hosne Ara recounts that day: “I was at a house at Housing Estate. Some injured men, who said they were freedom fighters were getting treated at the hospital. As there was a food crisis for the nurses, the doctor used to take food for them almost every day. The doctors did not worry too much, they though the Pakistan Army would not harm doctors. They were wrong of course. I was alone in the house and waiting for him. Nothing was clear to me and I wasn't getting any news. Three days later when the curfew was lifted I heard that he had died in a 'crossfire'”.
Dr. Shamsuddin Ahmed along with some of his colleagues and staff like Dr. Shyamol Kanti Lala, Nurse Mahmudur Rahman, Driver Korban Ali and others became martyrs while serving critically injured freedom fighters in the hospital. The Pak army opened fire as the EPR men tried to resist them. Those injured were rushed to the hospital that day.
Hosne Ara is seriously unhappy with the commercialization of education in this country. It has become a commodity that is sold to make money. The coaching business has lowered the standard of education quite badly. She wishes that our educational system would get rid of such detrimental things.
However, she is still involved with a unique educational institution. As there was a great demand for a quality children's school in the area, she talked to some guardians and came to conceive of the “Shishu School” in 1977. The school was first started at the Ambarkhana Girls High School and College. At the beginning, some mothers were entrusted with the task of teaching. Later, things became more official. However, the organizers or donors don't get financial benefits from the school fund. Hosne Ara is the chairperson of the managing committee yet.
All her children live in the United States and are well established. However, they do visit Sylhet. Hosne Ara spends a lot of time with her children and grandchildren, so she visits the United States, but she still loves staying in Sylhet. “It is my home” she says.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007