The problem is that the word accountability does not apply to our ministers or senior officials — no matter what the action is or what type of public outrage it creates, they can still get away with it
Is there any reasonable person in Bangladesh who would rightfully argue against the fact that the recent remarks made by the Minister of Education Nurul Islam Nahid are neither appropriate nor ethical, and are a complete breach of the code of standard expected of a cabinet minister of a democratic state?
Is there any reasonable person out there to defend his recent address that the officials of the Directorate of Inspection and Audit should practice bribery moderately? And can someone defend the arrogance in “if people make reports of such a speech, one should better remain silent” statement?
Although an attempt has been made to downplay this irresponsibility as humor, let’s not ignore the fact that the minister has been holding the public office for a significant period of time, and politicians such as him who have not pursued a career other than politics should recognise politics as a profession, and politicians as professionals.
If this modern view of politics is taken into consideration, then the remarks that have been made are an absolute failure of integrity and professionalism — values which he was sworn in to uphold and expected to deliver on.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the minister has made unsavoury remarks. In a recent press conference, which was reported by several media outlets, he almost unapologetically told the journalists that the leaking of the public exam question papers — a repetitive phenomenon — cannot be prevented, yet.
It must be clarified that this commentary is not neutral; rather it stems from an Awami League perspective as I’m not very neutral, at least politically.
I was born in a family that for generations has upheld Awami League agenda and served this party with blood, sweat, time in prison, and by selling jewellery of our women when times got tough — a cherished family tradition I also have followed in my 20s.
For people like us, Sheikh Hasina’s ascension to power for the second time in a row was accompanied by a simple expectation, that the government led by her would govern in accordance with the principles of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, on such matters as equality, secularism, conviction, and so on.
If one ministry has traded this principled position and damaged the reputation of the party more than any other key players, it has to be the Ministry of Education.
No one, not even the fundamentalists, in their wildest dreams would have ever thought that our secular education curricula would be transformed into a communal one, when the greatest brand of our secular identity Awami League was in power.
It’s an absurdity, and Awami League will continually be questioned for this appalling act for many years to come.
The prime minister deserves to be credited when she argues that a 21st-century education system focusing on modern democratic values, new ideas, and the best utilisation of our most precious assets — our children — is the only way forward for this nation.
But, when a minister fails to realise how such an education system operates, it certainly jeopardises the outcome of that great vision.
While the success of textbook distribution under the minister’s watch is welcome, all it represents is an administrative success. But when it is about the most crucial aspects such as a modern education policy, we’re actually racing backwards.
For example, when the experts from the entire world are arguing to make education fun and not a burden for the children, the education minister is claiming that public exams for kids as young as year two students is an educational success. And, just a few weeks ago the prime minister in the parliament was unnecessarily forced to defend this disastrous policy because of an ongoing high court writ, which brought criticism upon her.
The vision for a future Bangladesh that Awami league and the prime minister have is the right one — but to achieve it, the Ministry of Education needs a fresh start and a person in charge who is not just good at paying lip service, but someone who actually understands the technologies that create such an education system.
The problem is that the word accountability does not apply to our ministers or senior officials — no matter what the action is or what type of public outrage it creates, they can still get away with it, which explains how that unfortunate statement about bribery was made by a minister without any repercussions.
And like many other party loyalists, I can’t help but wonder, how many embarrassing gaffes the minister must make to tarnish the reputation of the government, before consequences take effect?