Abu Salah Shamim
Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University (HSTU) is the first Science and Technology University in the northern region of Bangladesh. Its history dates back to February 1999; Prime Minister of that time Sheikh Hasina declared to upgrade Hajee Mohammad Danesh Agriculture College to Science and Technology University in a public meeting held at Gor-E-Shahid Maidan of Dinajpur.
On the history of establishment of this University the 11th September is a glorious day. On this day of 1999 the Prime Minister of the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the activities of this University by setting the foundation stone. First batch of the students were admitted into B.Sc.Ag. (Hons) programme at 1999-2000 session. It is a matter of satisfaction for us that the university has made steady progress in a relatively short period of time in terms of expansion of its physical infrastructure and academic programmes.
HSTU has been growing rapidly in terms of quality, recognition, activities, number of courses, student intake, staff, outreach and research in the recent years. The university provides multidiscipline education. It has nine faculties such as Agriculture, Computer Science and Engineering, Business Studies, Fisheries, Engineering, Veterinary and Animal Science, Science, Social Science and Humanities and one Post-graduate Studies. Now the university 45 departments under nine faculties including post graduate studies. Presently 195 foreign students (undergraduate – 179 and postgraduate – 16) are studying in this university. They are from Nepal, Bhutan, India, Djibouti, Nigeria and Somalia. Currently, the President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh Md. Abdul Hamid is the Chancellor of the university and Prof. Dr. M Abul Kashem is the Vice Chancellor.
Professor Dr. M. Abul Kashem, Vice Chancellor, Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University (HSTU), Dinajpur, shared his contribution in an interview with Our Voice. President of the Islamic University Reporters Unity Abu Salah Shamim took the interview with the Vice Chancellor near the end of his 4-year tenure on behalf international online media platform Our Voice.
Our Voice: Congratulations Sir! Three and 6 months have already passed since you are appointed as the VC of HSTU. During this period many a person opines that you have become the most successful and best VC since its inception and the university has achieved a tremendous success during this tenure. Could you please inform us of this success story?
Dr. M. Abul Kashem: After joining as VC of HSTU at first, I pointed out the some fundamental problems of this university. I addressed those problems and took initiatives to solve those as far as possible. To improve the academic environment and ensure the quality education I took five initiatives excluding infrastructure developments. I ensured training for teachers, officers and employees to enhance their skills, established Agricultural Research Complex (ARC) with the purpose of expediting agricultural research activities; it aims to increase crop, livestock and fish production. We launched a Mobile Veterinary Clinic (MVC) to provide service to farming families in greater Dinajpur. HSTU is the first university in Bangladesh to start a state-of-the-art Mobile Veterinary Clinic (MVC) with all modern facilities for the treatment of livestock of the farming family. As a result of this initiative the farming families of greater Dinajpur are benefiting immensely. Farming Service Centre (FSC) is another initiative, which is set up to provide agricultural service to the farmers of greater Dinajpur. The purpose of establishing the FSC is to disseminate need-based agricultural technologies as well as making dialogues between the farmers of greater Dinajpur and the teachers of HSTU to address farmers’ technological problems. The university has the Faculty of Agriculture, Faculty of Veterinary and Animal Science, and Faculty of Fisheries where applied researches being conducted in order to generate appropriate technologies most suited to fulfill farmers’ demands. Hence, it is almost mandatory to have a window at the university for the dissemination of technologies to the farming community. Through the establishment of FSC, not only the farmers of greater Dinajpur have got the unique opportunities for dialogues with the teachers and researchers of the HSTU to solve their farming problems, but the teachers and researchers of HSTU have also got opportunities to conduct their research studies in the farmers’ fields in real situations. I started the Career Advisory Service (CADS) in the university campus with the aim of providing service and advice of the university students, such as finding jobs, PhD fellowships, scholarships, and assistantships abroad. As a result of this service the graduate students of the university are getting the right direction in building their bright future. Besides these initiatives, different infrastructural development works like 10-storied academic building, lady’s hall, utility apartments for teachers and officers, automation of library and controller section, botanical garden, roads etc. are speedily running.
Our Voice: You have been appointed as VC on February 2, 2017. From that time what are your worth-remembering achievements?
Dr. M. Abul Kashem: I had a dream to set up an effective linkage of the university with the community people so that the teachers of the university can play a very important role for community development through providing need-based technologies and technical know-hows in order to improve the socio-economic condition of the rural people. Hence, the inauguration of the FSC and Mobile Veterinary Clinic (MVC) are my worth-remembering achievements. Moreover, the inauguration of the main gate of the university was also one of my worth-remembering achievements since it was a long awaited demand of the students, teachers, officers and employees of the university.
Our Voice: How are you conducting the university’s academic activities during COVID -19 pandemic?
Dr. M. Abul Kashem: The entire world is combating the SARS-CoV-2 which has spread to almost every corner of the world over the first quarter of 2020. Apart from the economy, one of the worst affected areas of Covid-19 is the education sector. The disease started spreading from China in February 2020 and transmission became accelerated in March. Inevitably, by that time, schools and universities across the world began to close gradually. Bangladesh closed all educational institutions from March 17 and students’ residence halls were evacuated immediately. But our administrative activities are running in a very limited range in compliance with the hygiene rules. Now we are going to move on to online class. Our teachers are willing to take the online classes. Meanwhile one training programme on online class for teachers of HSTU is successfully completed under the management of IQAC. I hope it will be very much helpful for students to combat the academic loss due to COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, (i) skill-development training courses of the teachers are also going on through online, (ii) teachers are conducting their independent research studies, and (iii) teachers are supervising the research works of the Masters and PhD students.
Our Voice: How many new departments have you opened in your tenure? Do you have any plan to open more departments? And how much do you make sure to appoint skilled and quality teachers?
Dr. M. Abul Kashem: Comparatively HSTU is a new university in Bangladesh. There are 45 academic departments under eight faculties. About 11 thousand students including 200 foreign students are studying here. Considering academic and infrastructural facilities like class room, lab, residential hall, teachers’ number etc. the number of students are enough and HSTU does not have the capacity to take so many students. The number of students in HSTU has already increased a lot. As a result, there are various problems including teacher, lab and classroom crisis. I have taken steps to solve these problems. However, based on country’s need, during my tenure one department named “Department of Development Studies” has been opened; two more departments, such as Department of Hospitality Management, and Department of International Relations are on the pipe-line to open.
Regarding your question in appointing skilled and quality teachers, I must say that I have tried to appoint the best candidates among the lot of candidates as the teachers of this university last year. Five parameters covering 100 marks were in use for the selection of teachers: (i) past academic records (13 Marks), (ii) experience (02 marks), (iii) written exam (50 marks), (iv) oral exam (20 marks), and (v) lecture demonstrations (15 marks). For one hour written exams, questions were set instantly on the spot by the external Selection Committee Members. The selection committee members supervised the written exams and they evaluated the scripts. The written marks were added after other marks are allotted to the candidates.
Our Voice: What Measures have been taken to create the atmosphere of progressivism and to inculcate the spirit of our liberation war at HSTU?
Dr. M. Abul Kashem: A “Muktijuddho Corner” has been set up in the central library where there are lot of photographs, pictures and other documents of the great Liberation War in 1971. Quite a good number of books, magazines and other written documents related to “Muktijuddho” have been placed in the Muktijuddho Corner for the students and concerned others for getting clear picture and idea about the background of Muktijuddho. Moreover, during the selection of teachers, officers and employees utmost care has been taken, so that candidates having ideology against liberation war are not selected. No appointment letter was issued to anybody without satisfactory police verification report.
Our Voice: Alongside government funding, does the university have its own source of income?
Dr. M. Abul Kashem: Apart from government funding we have very limited sources of income. There is only 85 acres of land, where all the academic establishments, students’ halls and residential quarters are situated. There is a tiny crop farm, a small dairy, poultry and fisheries farm from which the university earns a little amount of money. Moreover, very recently a Material Testing Lab has been established under the department of Civil Engineering from which the university also earns small amount of money through providing material testing consultancy services in greater Dinajpur region.
Our Voice: Any obstacles to run this university smoothly?
Dr. M. Abul Kashem: In running any organization smoothly undoubtedly one has to face obstacles, however, the important matter is the intensity of obstacles and capability of the manager to tackle the obstacles. Since my joining as the Vice-Chancellor customarily I had also to face some of the inherent obstacles; some of the notable obstacles include: occasional factional groupings among some of the teachers, officers, employees as well as students hampering regular development activities; lack of commitment of some of the stakeholders in their duties and responsibilities, lack of adequate fund for conducting good quality research etc.
Our Voice: At present almost 3 million youths of our country are unemployed, although they are the graduates from different universities. What steps has your university taken, so that learners can find job easily after completion of their education?
Dr. M. Abul Kashem: Most of the Departments and Faculties of HSTU are technical. There are numerous job opportunities in public and private sectors for the graduates after coming out from these technical disciplines. Our graduates are performing well in their jobs as far known. Moreover, with this objective in mind, Career Advisory Service (CADS) was recently initiated at HSTU for the students as a gift on the birth centenary of the Father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Most of the foreign universities have these service centers. This is perhaps the first among the public universities in Bangladesh. Here you can find all types of local and foreign scholarships/fellowships information including all government and private jobs. As a result, job related information will come in the hands of students easily. Moreover, occasionally job fairs are arranged at the university premises in collaboration with different national and international donor agencies for the recruitment of potential applicants instantly. This has created, of course, a new horizon for the passed out graduates for their jobs.
Our Voice: You usually dream of transforming this university into international standards. What steps have been adopted in this regard?
Dr. M. Abul Kashem: In fact, HSTU has an internationalization. It is a matter of pride that we have got the highest number of international students among the public universities in Bangladesh. Since I have joined the university as VC, I have taken different initiatives to improve the academic environment and ensure the quality education. The present on-going infrastructure development works like 10-storied academic building, lady’s hall, utility apartments for the teachers and officers, automation of library and controller section etc. will be successfully completed within a year. We have increased the fund for research projects as expected with the aim of making teachers research oriented. In this way, almost all the teachers are getting the opportunity to involve themselves in the research work. I have taken many more initiatives which, if implemented, will bring long-term benefits.
Further, as already mentioned that five significant initiatives have been undertaken by me during the last three and a half years in order to uphold university activities up to international standards. However, one important aspect is still underway to implement and execute at the university, which is to introduce Outcome Based Education (OBE) at the university. A series of workshops have been organized at the university during last three years by the Institutional Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC) of the university. Out of eight academic faculties, Outcome Based Curricula (OBC) has already been developed in three faculties and other four faculties are in the process of developing the OBC. As prior to join as the VC of HSTU in February 2017 I was working as the Quality Assurance Specialist (QAS) under the HEQEP (Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project) at the UGC, Bangladesh funded by the World Bank (WB), I am confident that I shall be able help the faculty members in developing and executing the OBCs in different faculties. Moreover, Bangladesh Accreditation Council (BAC) has been established in Bangladesh in 2019. The BAC would hopefully invite both the public and private universities for the accreditation of the universities and its degree programs. My target is to apply for accreditation of HSTU and its degree programs when the BAC would invite the universities to apply for accreditations first time. I am taking preparation with full support and co-operation from the teachers, officers and other relevant stakeholders, so that all the parameters related to the accreditation set by the BAC can be met up.
Our Voice: In some recent surveys, it is found that no university from Bangladesh has occupied any position among 500 top universities of the world. What is the reason behind it?
Dr. M. Abul Kashem: There is no doubt that the teaching, research and other relevant activities of some of the universities in Bangladesh are up to the international standards with highly competent faculty members. However, the websites pertaining to different activities of those universities have not been adequately developed and consequently the agencies conducting the ranking of different universities get minimum information from such websites. May be due to this reason, although there might have some other reasons, for not occupying any position among 500 top universities in the world by the Bangladeshi universities.
Our Voice: What contributions of HSTU are playing to make Bangabandhu’s Golden Bangladesh?
Dr. M. Abul Kashem: Bangladesh is basically an agricultural country. The father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had rightly taken decision to emphasize on the development of agriculture in Bangladesh. And as such he declared the status of agricultural graduates to Class-1 status on 13 February 1973 at the Bangladesh Agricultural University premises. Due to the contributions of the agricultural graduates the country is now self-sufficient in food production. Many agricultural commodities are now exported from Bangladesh to other countries. The teachers of the Faculty of Agriculture, Faculty of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, and Faculty of Fisheries are constantly conducting applied research activities, apart from their teaching, in order to develop need-based technologies for farmers. By this some technologies have already been developed that are being used by the farmers, and some others are also on the pipe-line to be approved by the appropriate authority of the government. Hence, the HSTU is, of course, playing important role in making Bangabandhu’s Golden Bangladesh.
Our Voice: What would be your plan if your tenure is extended for another term?
Dr. M. Abul Kashem: If my tenure is extended, my plan as stated earlier is to develop the university up to the international standards by increasing and improving all relevant components and aspects of the university. These include: (i) introducing outcome education (OBE) towards producing competent graduates through attaining eight desired generic skills: (a) cognitive skills, (b) practical and problem solving skills, (c) numeracy and analytical skills, (d) entrepreneurship and innovation skills, (e) communication and ICT skills, (f) interpersonal, teamwork and leadership skills, (g) self management and personal development skills, and (h) commitment to community, country and humanity at large among the HSTU graduates, (ii) providing need-based and skills-based training for teachers, officers and employees, (iii) motivating teachers for undertaking farmers’ need-based and practical oriented research studies in order to benefit the farmers of greater Dinajpur, (iv) providing better community service by providing appropriate technologies through FSC, (v) offering farmers unique opportunities for the treatment of domestic animals and birds through mobile veterinary clinic (MVC), (vi) helping the immediate passed out HSTU graduates in finding appropriate jobs nationally, globally and internationally.
Our Voice: In the end, would you please give your valuable message for present and future generation?
Dr. M. Abul Kashem: At present the social bonds are getting lighter day by day, due to which the moral degradation and degradation of values in the society is being noticed significantly. In this case, I think Social Communication Networks (SCNs) and media has a great role. Students are now more inclined towards using these SCNs than giving time to family. Providing students with a variety of homework, library work, group work related to education may reduce the overuse of SCNs. Meanwhile, drugs are another big problem in the young society. Drugs not only ruin one’s life, but also the dreams of the whole family. Young people have to come out of it. One has to love his own life. I know, the new generations are so talent. My message to them “Don’t get frustrated, work honestly with confidence, everything will be in favour of you.”
Three things are very important for the development of a country. These are: (i) man himself, (ii) man created devices, and (iii) man’s environment. None is less important than the other. In the present day of the competitive world one has to develop oneself in such a way that his/her service seems to be important in the society. It is not important to run after jobs, rather, one has to prepare oneself in a way that the recruiting agencies would find one from the website and offer him/her a suitable job. So, the very important matter is to develop one’s skills-based career so that his/her merits are judged by the skills acquired for the jobs. However, in order develop a successful career the following principles may be useful: i) personality development, (ii) target fixation, (iii) right philosophy of life, (iv) punctuality and regularity, (v) industriousness, (vi) sincerity, (vii) honesty, (viii) skill development, (ix) optimistic attitude and approach, (x) control of emotion, (xi) maintaining moral ethics, (xii) commitment to profession, (xiii) admitting personal limitations, (xiv) avoiding lame excuses, and (xv) nobility.
Some other hints for making successful career: a) Remember that “Your Achievements may Rarely be Recognized, But, your Mistakes are Never Forgotten/Spared”
(b) “Do Something Right, No One Remembers, Do Something Wrong, No One Forgets”
(c) “Ensure that Your Brain Is in Gear, Before Putting Your Tongue into Action”
(d) “Think Before You Ink”
(e) All of us should Remember and Believe that to Make our Fortune and Develop our Country and the Nation, We should have Strong Faith in:
“Good, Better, Best
Let Us Not Take the Rest,
To Make the Good, Better
Better, the Best”.