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17 September, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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Remembering the education movement of 1962

To trace the background of ’62 education movement, it is very much relevant to mention that since the establishment of Pakistan, anarchy in education sector became a common feature as the central government of the country followed a policy of disparity
Prof. Quazi Faruque Ahmed
Remembering the education movement of 1962

This year the Education Day is being observed with the theme: `In support of humanity, human rights & human resource development’ The Day reminds us of the killings of school student Babul, domestic worker Waziullah, bus conductor Golam Mustafa and repression on many others who raised their voices of protest against discrimination and deprivation in education,  in favour of  a  people-friendly education policy in 1962. The movement is popularly known as `62 Education Movement `which culminated on 17th September in 1962. This year 17th September is observed in an atmosphere of crisis of humanity as half a million people known as Rohingyas are forced to leave their home and everything in Myanmar in the face of inhuman brutalities of the rulers there. The sufferers include children, men and women. Bangladesh has given them shelter and has urged upon the international community to stand by the suffering human beings. Education is supposed to throw light in ignorance and imbibe fellow-feeling, to take stand against violation of human rights and for transforming men and women as human resources. This naturally relates to the crisis of humanity and the united efforts to overcome it.    

To trace the background of ’62 education movement, it is very much relevant to mention that since the establishment Pakistan, anarchy in education sector became a common feature as the central government of Pakistan followed a policy of disparity and stepmotherly attitude towards East Pakistan where lived 56% of the people. Number of educational institutions started to decrease and the drop out rate increased within a short time. Prior to partition of the subcontinent, East Pakistan was much ahead of the then western part of Pakistan. In 1947-48 the number of primary schools in East Pakistan was 29633, which came down to 26000 within a span of 5 years in 1954-55. The Pakistan Army Chief Ayub Khan who hatched a conspiracy with the Governor General Eskander Mirza to topple the coalition civilian government headed by Prime Minister Firoz Khan Noon, they jointly brought out martial law for the first time and first of its kind, in the sub-continent. Martial law was promulgated on October,07 of 1958. But within less than 3 weeks Eskandar Mirza was removed and Ayub Khan himself became self-appointed president of Pakistan and Chief Martial law Administrator. After two months, on 30th December government announced formation of a committee headed by Secretary, Education of West Pakistan and Ayub’s one time teacher at Aligarh University, S. M. Sharif. In the 11 member-commission, 4 educationists were from East Pakistan. They were Dr. Momtaj Uddin Ahmed. Vice Chancellor, Rajshahi University, Dhaka Secondary Education Board president Abdul Haque and 2 teachers one from Dhaka University and another from Dhaka Engineering College. They were Professor Atowar Rahman and Dr. Abdur Rashid respectively. The commission submitted its interim report on 26th August,1959.

Some of the features of Sharif Commission report which was published in 1962, provoked students’ agitation in East Pakistan. To mention a few among them: (1) The concept of free primary compulsory education is an utopia. (2) To introduce a Lingua Franca for Pakistan, Roman Script should be introduced and for that Arabic should be given priority. (3) “Urdu should be made the language of the people of Pakistan”. (4) Education should not be available at minimum cost and at a ‘cheap price’. (5) There is reason to see it at par with investment both in industry and education.  (6) The 2 years’ degree course should be upgraded to 3 years for improvement of quality at the higher education level.

Students reacted sharply to the above stated features. They clearly pointed out that the door of education has been closed to the poor and low-income people. The very connotation of “Investment in education triggered sharp respite from the students. Action committees and sub-committees were formed in many institutions, continuously to protest against the introduction of English as compulsory reading H.S.C, and enhancement of the tenure of the degree course from 2 to 3 years. The agitation program was started by Dhaka College students. One handicapped student of degree class, M.I. Chowdhury initiated it. Higher Secondary School certificate examinees who considered the new functional English courses at the H.S.C. level as extra burden also participated in it. Sporadic strikes and abstention from classes by students continued throughout this period. Students of medical school and National Medical institutions also resorted to movement, which included hunger strike also this time. However, students’ movement took a new turn on 10th of August when college students assembled in a meeting in the college canteen of Dhaka College. Quazi Faruque Ahmed, General Secretary of Dhaka College Students Union convened and presided over the meeting which was first of its kind. There was no link with the central leadership of student’s organizations prior to this meeting. Now this meeting bridged the link. The Dhaka College students meeting announced general strike of students throughout the province on 15th August. Student’s responded favourably to the program. As a follow-up, a sit down action program before the Secretariat was also announced. Series of meeting were held in between 15th August and 10th September at the historic Amtola in the Dhaka University Campus. Huge number of students both from the schools and colleges of Dhaka City, attended. The previously formed “Degrees Students’ Forum was renamed as “East Pakistan Students’ Forum” with two joint conveners Quazi Faruque Ahmed from East Pakistan Students’ Union (EPSU) and Abdullah Wares Imam from East Pakistant Students’ League (EPSL). On 10th September a representative character meeting was held at the Dhaka University Cafeteria where almost all the colleges of the city were represented. Dhaka University Central Students Union (DUCSU) General Secretary Enayetur Rahman, Jamal Anwar Basu, Dhaka College Students’ Union General Secretary Quazi Faruque Ahmed, Jagannath College Students’ Union Vice President Abdullah Wares Imam, Eden College Students’ Vice President Matia Chowdhury, Quide Azam College Students’ Union General Secretary Nrurul Arefin Khan, Tolaram College Students’ Union General Secretary Abdul Aziz Baghmar among others, were present. The meeting withdrew the previously announced sit down strike before the secretariat but announced a fresh action program of hartal or total strike on 17th September. Street corner meetings procession, meetings with different organizations and associations of government employees, Rickshaws Employees Union, Labour Union and different trade bodies to make the program of 17th September a success.

Students started picketing from early morning on the day. The black color Mercedes Bencz car of the Provincial Minister Hasan Askari was set to fire by the students. Some jeeps were also put at blaze. In the morning a contingent of police led by Surgent Hafiz chased prospective demonstrators from Sadarghat to Nawabpur Railway crossing. By 9 a.m. Dhaka University Campus was packed up with students from the school and colleges of Dhaka City. It was virtually unmanageable to hold any meeting just this time. A news was spread out that the police fired at Nawabpur road and good number of people including students. It was scheduled earlier that a procession would be brought out at 10 a.m. But hearing the news of firing a huge procession was brought out with Sirajul Alam Khan, Mohiuddin Ahmed, Rashed Khan Menon, Haider Akbar Khan Rono, Ayub Reza Chowdhury and Reza Ali were in the forefront of the procession. The procession entered Abdul Gani Road crossing High Court when police fired in the back of the procession. Babul a student of Nobo Kumar High School was killed leaving bus conductor Golam Mostofa, domestic worker Waziullah and many others seriously injured. Waziullah later died in the hospital. The firing at Abdul Gani Road infuriated the processionist which not only included students but also workers and employees of different mills and factories, rickshaw pullers and boatmen from across the Buriganga river. It is said that the 52-language movement cultivated the sprit of nationalism and the 62-education movement inculcated and infused the ingredient of progressive content in it.          

    Two chief characteristics of the 62 education movement deserve special mention: firstly, the movement was initiated by the students alone without any outside influence. Secondly, the central student leaders could not foresee that such a huge movement was possible based on academic issues and problems faced by the students. The movement subsided eventually when Opposition leader H. S. Suhrawardy came over to Dhaka from Karachi during the last leg of the movement. He met East Pakistan Governor Golam Faruk and could persuade him to defer implementation of the Sharif Commission Report.

The1962 education movement. provides a teaching that the consequences of confrontational attitude in policy decision results in giving heavy price for it. The process of consultation, providing scope for ventilating one’s opinion, and accommodating divergent views ultimately pays. The people of Bangladesh, especially those involved in and concerned with education sincerely admit and appreciate the patient and intelligent handling of the Rohingya issue by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her vision towards education though all are not that well the implementation process which include lack of coordination, corruption, partisan bias and above all, mismanagement. However, all concerned with education will prefer to extend support to the positive steps in the right causes – in support of human development which unmistakably incorporates defence of humanity and human rights. Let us take the vow to uphold the theme of the Education Day.

The writer is a member of National Education Policy Committee.  E-mail : [email protected]

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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