During my diplomatic assignment in Malaysia, I was associated with the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) as a member in both the Board of Governors and the Majlis for more than 5 years. At that time, IIUM had about 26,000 students representing more than a hundred countries including Bangladesh. Out of its more than 1900 faculty members, 1100 were with doctoral qualifications. Due to my association with that university, I had to attend the Convocation ceremony every year, at least one session, to distribute certificates among the graduate students. Before distribution of certificates (diploma), I had to say a few words for the students as practised by IIUM. Here, I would like to refer some of the paragraphs of my last speech that was delivered in October 2014 Convocation. I believe those will encourage and inspire our students to be more sincere and attentive to their studies so as to build themselves as persons of value, although our general perspective about education is to make the students successful persons in the society.
Expressing my heartiest congratulations to the graduates, I said, “From now, you can officially proclaim yourself as the Graduates of IIUM, the Premier Global Islamic University. Not only will you walk out of this Hall as Graduates of IIUM but you are also the Ambassadors of IIUM, ‘the agents of change’ that IIUM has envisioned for you. To perform this responsibility, you need to apply and put to use, to share and spread the knowledge and skill you have acquired during your stay in this University, and even more importantly, to disseminate virtue and good-values in whatever profession and wherever you will be.” In Bangladesh, at least our public universities have the same aims and visions for their students. However, there remains a minor difference that Malaysian students, whether pursuing their studies at home or abroad, are not allowed to be involved in politics. Similarly, no teachers (local or foreigner) could be the members of any political party in Malaysia.Albert Einstein wrote in a letter to his son Eduard on 5 February 1930, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” Following these words of Einstein, our graduates should excel in all their undertakings and career. It is not enough just to be able to perform their work well, but to be the best among the performers. If the graduates grow into the leadership position with their enormous potentials, in whatever domain it may be, their leadership should be an inspiration for others. If they enter the world of the academia and researches, they ought to come up with profound output that will benefit one and all, therewith reinstating the glorious domain of knowledge.
We feel that social norms and practices are in danger, not only in Bangladesh but in many countries of the world. Violence in various forms is spiralling out every day everywhere irrespective of developed, developing or under developed states or society. In this situation, our students should come forward to recover the lost glory of our social norms and behaviours aiming to maintain peace and stability. They should not only be vocal but to create awareness among the people against violence of any level in the society. If our students should help in establishing back an ideal human-life, by educating contemporary modern men and women that there is another way of understanding life and another way of living, a life that gives fulfilment and bring peace not only to the person but to all others as well, to the human as well as the non-human existences. Then the whole world would turn into a land of peace, a place in which each and every person, irrespective of religious affinity, would be able to enjoy the fruits of life. This is obviously a very big challenge for our students to undertake.
One should not have any doubt that today’s students are the future leaders who will run the country. It means, a country’s future depends on the ways they will run the state affairs. Their quality of leadership will define a country’s place in the world community. On the other way, they will be responsible in shaping the future of the people. That is why, leadership is very important in shaping our society, in broader sense the whole world, into an environment in which people will live in peace and dignity. In this context, though I mentioned, “the IIUM graduates would take the leadership to relate the teachings of Islam to the modern mind and personality and thus we will see a world that we always cherish”, but I believe, it is equally applicable for the students of all religious beliefs, even non-believers to acquire the leadership qualities.
Values and self-reliance are two important terms that I had referred to at the end of my speech. I requested them to ensure these in their minds and thoughts as well as in their entire career. In my previous speeches, I had also repeated these words, “I would be happy to see you not as successful persons but as persons of value. I believe you will not disappoint us.” In fact, I told them those words from my heart and I used to tell this to my daughter who was then a university student in the USA. Still I have the same feeling that our students should acquire the values of education that would transform them as the source of knowledge.
We know, to be a successful person is much easier than to be a person of value. But, what a person of value can do for the world lasts longer. In fact, they are the roots of our civilisation, our developments. They are our assets. Their contributions cannot be measured. They do not work for themselves. We may find a good number of successful persons in our society, but we rarely find any person of value. We like to see our students to attain such qualities while pursuing their studies so that Bangladesh will be able to utilise their knowledge for the greater interest of humanity. Undoubtedly, we greatly need such people.
Few months back, Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, at a meeting with the students, asked the students to be more attentive to their studies than politics. She has rightly said that education comes first, then politics. Without good education, how can a student take the leadership? For example, a political leader without proper education cannot lead the society or the state in the right direction. Running the state machinery is not an easy job. A leader has to have adequate knowledge to understand that.Yes, we had experienced exceptional cases in the past. But, the results were not satisfactory or did not bring any better results for the country. A leader cannot lead, whatever the sector is, taking directives or suggestions from others. Such a leader cannot be called ‘leader’. One should understand that a leader should have leadership qualities. Only education can make a leader. Our students, particularly who intend to join politics or are already in politics or to start with any other career, should note this reality. A leader remains in history as an ever illuminating star who can establish himself as a person of value, not only a successful person.
The purpose of our education system should also be to create such an environment where the students can earn knowledge and prepare themselves to face future challenges, but not to collect a few certificates only. It should not be enough to be happy if they find themselves successful in their lives. Their aim of studies should be to equip themselves with the knowledge in their respective fields so that others would acknowledge their talents and would be benefited. Thus, our students would be able to register themselves as persons of value. We wish to see our students not only to be successful in their respective fields but contribute more than that as persons of value. Actually, they possess the potentials to change the society, the whole universe.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary