A university and the fate of a region

by Md. Shariful Islam, International Relations

Can a university change the fate of a region? And, if the region is unpredictable, because of the long-standing mutual suspicions, mistrust, and particularly sustained hostile relations among the countries of the region, only due to the vested interests of particular regimes. I am sure, you the respected readers, already sure about the region which I am going to talk about. Yes, the region is definitely South Asia, and I am talking about South Asian University (SAU) which is one of the last hopes of one-fourth innocent, poverty stricken humanity of the region.

Why am I saying it as poverty stricken? Because, 40.4% population in South Asia earn only $ 1.25 a day while in Latin America and the Caribbean this percentage is only 8.2%. My question is, why are we lagging behind, and even by Latin America and the Caribbean? There are huge potentials in our people. The child of the region won Nobel Prize in 1913. We have Nobel laureates in peace, economics, and so on. We have renowned scientists, doctors, scholars, academics, and most importantly hard working people. But why we are not prosperous yet? Why millions of people go hungry every day? Why millions of children are deprived of right to education, health, entertainment etc.? What and where are the loopholes in the path of progress?

Furthermore, the region is also plagued with problems like environmental degradation, poor governance, corruption, lack of democratic stability, racism, natural disasters, human rights violations, illiteracy and violence against women, human trafficking, and so on. To eliminate these problems, there is no alternative but cooperation and unity.

Through the establishment of South Asian University (SAU) in July 2010 jointly by the eight SAARC Member States, a new chapter of hope and cooperation began. And, I do believe that the process of promoting regional cooperation and inculcation of regional consciousness amongst students of South Asia already started. And, this university is a platform to learn and think together for a prosperous, enlightened South Asia which is just a matter of time.

As today’s students are the leaders of tomorrow, we the students will change the fate of the region as a whole. As a SAU student, what I found, a great opportunity to interact with the South Asian talented, gifted students; knowing each other’s problems which helped me like others to build regional consciousness.

 So, when these students will enter into the leading positions of their respective countries, they will ultimately work for the prosperity of the region as a whole as the stereotype mind-sets will not work anymore. And they will be able to realize however, that there is no alternative for South Asia but promoting cooperation which can only bring win-win situation for everyone. And, without any doubt, nurturing cooperative attitudes, relations among the students will go a long way in promoting peaceful co-existence in this region.

As a student, what I feel, SAU is a new university and to be a leading university in the world, it requires cooperation from all. And, it is easy to criticize but we need to remember that the world class university like Harvard did not attain today’s excellence and reputation in a single day. So, it is not fair to judge a university only by 2 years.

In this backdrop, the media of South Asia can play a pivotal role in the process of promoting regional cooperation in the region. And, I think media bears a moral responsibility of making concerted efforts in sensitizing the governments, and the general public at large about all the benefits that the people of South Asia are presently missing out due to slow pace of cooperation.

Lastly, countries of South Asia share the similar problems which require concerted efforts. And SAU is the best place to build up and nurture a common thinking, to accelerate regional consciousness among the South Asian students which will ultimately enhance the well-being of the people of the region at large.

 Therefore, I do believe that, a university like SAU will be able to change the fate of the region if there is uninterrupted support from all corners of the region, and the university can ensure the academic excellence which will lead the institution as one of the leading universities in the world. Awaiting to see this.

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