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Exploring the potential of Dinajpur
M. S. Haque

          If one thinks prudently, a basic training programme on mining and environmental science should be adopted in the curriculum soon at Dinajpur Polytechnic and a tea industry-specific curriculum at Haji Danesh Agriculture University (HDAU), writes Mostagousul Haque Atrai, the floodplain of Punorvaba, has a rich history of around 300 years.
The architecture of 'kantaji' temple or the digging of Ram Shagor in 1752 are the clear examples. The patio, balcony, dance hall and bathing place of the maharajas were built by people who lived in this land many generations ago. There isn't much written on the past, but the 'saontals,' who lived in the shaal jungles in the east and south of this city received much attention. Their arrow and bow created history, not for hunting wild rabbits or big lizards, but for defending their rights.
This was all about the self-esteem and self-defence of those indigenous people that created a legend. But the real history of those proud people is yet to come out of the shroud of the legend. The present condition of the population of the district is far below the national average. The indices relating to human development, per capita income and the like are in a disgraceful state. One would find it difficult to say, what is the literacy rate or the growth rate of this district today.
The oldest private library with a stock of 30 thousand titles has no readers. Dusts and worms have settled there instead. At the dimly lit reading tables few visitors come to read newspapers or to collect old tender advertisements.
The city has one university and one medical college, four undergraduate or graduate colleges, one technical school and a few research institutes. In all, a few thousand students and a few hundred teachers and professionals live in this city. Sadly though, no seekers of knowledge visit the free city library, nor does it have any active member.
What is the total number of employees in the industries and institutions in greater Dinajpur? What are the potential employment sectors that might be created and how can the existing institutions provide skills for those sectors?
The district's geography, cultural background and existing facilities provide opportunities mainly in the sectors like agriculture, a few fabricating businesses and the emerging poultry and fishery enterprises.
Haji Danesh Agriculture University (HDAU), Dinajpur Polytechnic Institute and the government and private colleges should provide the skilled manpower required in these sectors. These institutions can supply the required engineers and technicians in the mining, power processing and tea plantation sectors. If one thinks prudently, a basic training programme on mining and environmental science should be adopted in the curriculum soon at Dinajpur Polytechnic and a tea industry-specific curriculum at HDAU.
One must not to lose sight of the fact that the quality of education and training should be strengthened to suit the present and future demands of the district.The condition of the library tells the attitude of the students.
Dearth of motivated and dedicated teachers is also a matter of concern. Like other professions in this country, the propagators of knowledge have also joined the ranks of the unscrupulous. If one remembers the sober, humble and resourceful chemistry teacher, who remained engaged mostly in his own research, at the city's government college in the 70s of the last century, one would find the definition of dedication. Can't we have a few of them today?
If a few effective researches are taken up by HDAU, many localities can be developed. Small farming areas, new crops with better yield and crop management and marketing will evolve. Few horticulturist enthusiasts can change the entire outlook of the villages and its markets and thus bring a change in the lives of the people. New type of lemon, orange, pineapple or even sweet grapes can be produced in the western and northern part of greater Dinajpur. Vegetables like spinach, broccoli, lettuce, capsicum, tomatoes, mint and mushrooms can be grown as cash crops for the export markets. Small scale processing or packaging plants for vegetables or popular fruits of the region can also set up. Drying organic fruits like pineapple, papaya, banana, mango, tomato, etc., can inject fresh life into the small households of the district. A strong marketing chain or network can emerge as green field company.
We do need investment or funding but before that we need motivation that can come from effective education. A fertile small plot just in front of the premise of HDAU or at a short distance at Doshmile, Vushirbandar should attract real learners. With the landowner's cooperation, a small plot of land can yield reasonable profit plus research cost. For the true enthusiasts, small funding of 20 to 50 thousand taka can change life. With this size of fund, the above kind of project can prove sustainable. Here the most vital factor is the knowledge about market and marketing of the products. Education can motivate small families to dry tomato, pineapple, mango or papya on solar dryer, to grade vegetable, process mango, lichies or pineapple for value addition.
After long 25 years of mechanized rice processing in automatic plants, Dinajpur is yet to find a niche for its rice. This can also be attributed to lack of business knowledge. Food basket of the country must get a boost and education should help lead the way.
A polytechnic graduate can help craft small equipment for cultivation and processing.
Graduates from the colleges can find work in the area of planning and preparing business performance status or its strategy for growth.
The capacities of the institutions can be strengthen further so that those may deliver.
We may come up with hundreds of reasons to explain away non-performance but there is not a society where everything is provided by the system. One with the faithful initiative to help himself and fellow mankind is an indomitable spirit ready to face at all odds. The inventor of 'votvoti,' unlike that of micro-credit, had no formal education, while other had no fund, but what is common in them is enthusiasm and vision.
Education, sense of self respect, passion for good life and the energy to fight for their rights­these are the qualities our forefathers had nourished as evidenced in the building of world famous terracotta monument, launching of the te-bhaga andolon and the organising of saontal revolt.
Such a proud legacy can lead the present generation too. Failure of our system, divisions in our society, failure of our politicians, who are attacking each other instead of attacking problems, shouldn't degenerate into to bombing, stabbing or agitation out of frustration and destroy the future of our children.
We should believe in the possibilities of our people; despite misinformation, bitterness and partisan politics. The innate instinct of our people would surface if we could talk to them, connect to them, and speak objectively and virtuously. This will enable us to close the gap and bring synergy. Even economists of global renown like Nobel Laureate J. Stigliz have emphasised information and its dissemination for an effective economy. Our college graduates can do a great deal in this aspect under a given environment.
Things may not improve significantly in isolation. Quality of secondary and higher secondary education can be monitored by way of 'standard watch' of parents and business men in this city or district. This can help improve the quality of basic education and check the drop out of students by providing monetary or counselling services.
For higher secondary students, which is crucial for career building, counselling can provide better focus.
The nation has no future with a half-educated workforce. Dinajpur holds all the prospects for a bustling education and economic activities in the region.
The education institutions in and around this city can be put under the required discipline. People who are struggling to survive can be helped, provided we stand together and motivate ourselves to make a change. We must let our children dream for best with our core values.
The writer writes from Jeddah, KSA


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