Abu Salah Shamim
Islamic University is ranked as one of the top public universities in Bangladesh as well as the largest seat of higher education in the south-western part of the country. Situated 24 kilometers south of Kushtia and 22 kilometers north of Jhenidah district-town in a lush green countryside, the university is by-passed by Khulna-Kushtia National Highway which provides its lifeline of connectivity with the rest of the country. The passing of the Islamic University Act in 1980 conferred this institution the permanent prestige of being the first university established after the independence of Bangladesh, reflecting the hopes and aspirations of the new nation striving to be on par with other international players through the promotion of science, business, humanities, and interfaith dialogue.
By now, Islamic university has been exceptionally renowned as the major international center for theological, general, applied science, technology and engineering studies. Islamic University is eager to gain a foothold in Asia and also aims to transform itself into a world class university. The vision is to become a globally recognized university. Currently, the President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh Md. Abdul Hamid is the Chancellor of the university and Prof. Dr. Harun-Ur-Rashid Askari is the Vice Chancellor.
Dr. Askari is a bilingual author, fictionist, columnist, translator, educationist, media personality and the current vice chancellor of Islamic University, Bangladesh. He emerged as a writer in the mid-1990s and by now wrote seven books and about a large number of articles/essays published at home and abroad to his credit. His two Bengali books: Indo-English Literature and Others (Dhaka-1996) and Postmodern Literary and Critical Theory (Dhaka-2002) and two English books: The Wounded Land (Dhaka 2010) and the edited book English Writings of Tagore (3 Vol.) Dhaka 2012, deserve special mention. His short fiction collection Nineteen Seventy One (New Delhi- 2018) has been translated into Hindi and French. Dr. Askari’s academic interests include Modern and Postmodern Fiction, Colonial and Postcolonial Literatures, South-Asian Writing in English, Bangladeshi Writing in English, Literary and Critical Theories, Creative Writing and Quality Assurance Mechanism at Higher Education Institutions. Currently he is working as a member of the International Publication and Translation Sub- Committee under Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Birth Centenary Celebration National Implementation Committee.
President of the Islamic University Reporters Unity Abu Salah Shamim took an interview with IU Vice Chancellor Prof. Dr. Rashid Askari near the end of his 4-year tenure on behalf of international online media platform Our Voice.
Our Voice: Sir, How are you conducting the university’s academic activities during COVID19 pandemic?
Dr. Askari: Well, this is actually the crux of the current situation. You know, the COVID-19 pandemic has assumed massive proportions and the situation is taking heavy tolls on education sectors across the globe. And Islamic University is not an exception. But my university is one of pioneers, I mean to say, one of the very few public universities which felt a new urgency to online teaching in emergency as the only practicable and viable alternative and started conducting virtual classes immediately after the universities of our country were declared closed since end of March 2020. As a matter of fact, in the wake of honourable Education Minister Dr. Dipu Moni’s clarion call made at the 30 April 2020 virtual meeting with the education family high ups, our online academic activities gathered momentum. All the 34 departments of Islamic University are now conducting online activities with a view to preparing students for exams to be taken immediately after the pandemic situation is over. IU family welcomed the new normal mode of education especially in emergency in a bid to escape from the clutches of session jams and thereby to minimize, as far as possible, the impact of COVID-19 on education.
Our Voice: What do you think before the completion of your 4 year tenure as first the vice chancellor of the university who is going to complete his term? How far have you been successful in this time?
Dr. Askari: Yes, I am at the fag end of my tenure as the vice chancellor. Most of members of IU family, the teachers, officers, employees and the students are full of praises for what I have done during these four years for the development of the university. Although sometimes I feel flattered at being called ‘the maker of modern Islamic University’ or eulogized as ‘a hero’ or blah, blah, blah, what I really did for my beloved university weighs more with me than the verbal praises. However, it’s no exaggeration to say that during these four years, Islamic University has achieved an academic regeneration. It’s been very well poised to become a center of excellence in quality education and research nurtured by proper attention and care. My success story can be attributed to the implementation of my policy of innovation and transparency. I tried to realize my vision of a world class university through a set of reasonably practicable missions, goals, objectives supported by smart strategies and good teamwork. On the verge of completing my four-year tenure as Vice Chancellor, I am left with mixed feelings. I am happy that I have played a very good inningand am expecting to have a pretty happy ending compared to my predecessors. However, a feeling of incompleteness is nagging at me for I couldn’t keep the university fully functional for the last few months due to the unscheduled closure we had to undergo caused by the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. This is the reason why the fullest implementation of my academic policies and infrastructural development has been seriously impeded and my overall scheme of things couldn’t come to fruition. However, on the whole, I am satisfied that I tried to discharge my duties and responsibilities as the CEO quite fairly and squarely to the best of my ability, honesty and sincerity. The onus to measure my success is on others. All I can assure that I have tried my best to get the university back on track after it suffered overwhelming odds since its inception.
Our Voice: What the major developments have you made in your tenure?
Dr. Askari: Since my assumption of the VC’s position on 21 August 2016, the major events that happened are: opening nine high needs-based subjects and three new separate faculties for Social Sciences, Biological Sciences and Engineering; bringing about far-reaching academic reforms and huge course –curriculum design and developments in accordance with intended learning outcomes (ILO), teaching/learning pedagogies, core values, lifelong learning competencies and interpersonal skills; admitting 50 foreign students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels; holding the 4th convocation of the university after one and a half decades; getting the biggest ever budget (537 crore taka) for the ongoing Mega Project for huge infrastructural development including the construction of nine new 10-storey buildings— five students’ halls, one academic building, one administration building, two dormitories, and the full extension of 19 existing buildings; erecting three eye-catching Bangabandhu murals, one at the main gate of the university (Mrittunjoyee Mujib) and two in front of Bangabandhu Hall (Muktir Ahoban and Shaswata Mujib); establishing the post of Bangabandhu Chair Professor and recruiting to it; establishing EkusheyCorner, Muktijuddho Corner and Bangabandhu Corner at the Central Library; launching collaboration and exchange programmes with 10 foreign universities; buying about a dozen new buses, cars and other vehicles; extending working hours so on and so forth.I have made sure that Islamic University’s goes ahead in keeping with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s vision of a digital Bangladesh and her higher education policies.
Our Voice: Till now, no Vice Chancellors were able to complete their tenure. You are going to making the history for the first….
Dr. Askari: I was always least bothered about whether I would be able to complete my tenure as the vice chancellor. I was never anxious about the fact of suffering the same fate as my preceding vice chancellors did. Nor do I find any reason why I should jump for joy at the chance of successfully completing my tenure and thereby going down in the annals of Islamic University history as you have mentioned. I see the issue from a different perspective. I have enormous confidence and strength of purpose. I would love to do my duties with pleasure and dignity as long as I am in the chair. I prefer anything to dishonor.
Our Voice: What would be your plan if your tenure is extended for another term?
Dr. Askari: My answer to this question would be one of bafflement, because I don’t know who is going to lead Islamic University for the next four years. I believe, individuals can make all the difference. However, I can give you some ideas about how this university should, at this point in time, continue its journey into the way to internationalization, one I launched. All I did in the last four years has contributed to what we call enhancement of the quality of education and research at the university. Now it has to be taken to the next step – acceleration and transformation. In crude terms, in my four-year tenure, I have been able to season the main dish with some more spices to improve its taste and texture. Now, at the transformation level we have to cook new dishes in keeping with the consumer demand locally and globally. In the transformation phase, the university should be made to promote understanding of the rich cultural diversity of humankind in order to prepare students to go forth with skills, knowledge and wisdom to serve and advance the communities in which they live and work.
In concrete terms, another large-scale project should be made includingan increase in the area of the campus by at least 50 acres of land, building high boundary walls, introducing central sewerage and waste management systems, opening the agricultural and health science faculties and a research and faculty development center. Anyway, everything depends on how faithful the vice chancellors are to the motto of the university and how capably and masterly they can translate their dreams into reality.