Vijaya Laxmi Tripura
For last twenty years country’s largest English newspaper The Daily Star (TDS) has been encouraging the students of O Level and A Level, which has turned into an event of greatest inspiration to the students in Bangladesh. Such excellent initiative was possibly the brainchild of Mahfuz Anam, the editor of this newspaper. The 20th event of such excellent initiative took place in Dhaka on April 6, 2019. Hundreds and thousands of students, guardians, teachers and people from various walks of life attended the event ignoring heavy rain. They gathered at the Shaheed Suhrawardy Indoor Stadium in Mirpur area in Dhaka city to encourage some of the country’s brightest minds who turned up in exuberance to celebrate their academic success and brilliance. Those students showed every sign that they would be the change makers of tomorrow and pledged to build a prosperous nation.
A total of 2,257 awardees — 1,813 from O-level and 444 A-level — were recognized at the 20th edition of the newspaper’s annual academic awards ceremony, with the tagline “Saluting The Nation Builders of Tomorrow”.
The outstanding achievers received medals and certificates handed over by Sonia Bashir Kabir, managing director of Microsoft Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and Laos, and Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star.
BRAC Bank Ltd was the celebration partner of the event, while Daffodil International University was the academic partner. Edexcel, Guardian Life Insurance and MACES, an education consultancy firm, were the associate sponsors and Channel i was the media partner.
Awardees from 98 English-medium schools from across the country gathered in front of the podium for what was to become one of their most memorable days.
Speaking as the chief guest, Sonia Bashir Kabir, said 50 percent of Bangladeshis were under the age of 30 and that students had the ability to take a nation from being a least developing economy to a middle income one.
“In this age, your gender, your religion, or your location does not have anything to do with success. You could be anywhere, anyplace, anytime, doing what you need to do.”
Sonia called for cultivating inner wellbeing to understand what was happening around the world and leveraging technology to do whatever one wanted to do.
Talking about the importance of data, she said data was the new currency.
“Anyone who wants to do a project with data, anyone who has an empathetic solution to a problem that exists today, is going to be able to change the world,” Sonia Bashir said.
She encouraged the awardees to rebel against complacency.
“Every time you see you are comfortable, and every time you see that you are able to handle the situation very easily, please stop and disrupt.
“Challenge yourself; have the courage to change and disrupt and do something new.”
She invited those students interested in turning ideas into businesses and said Microsoft would be there to help them.
In her keynote speech, Saiara Musarrat Adrita, program manager, Xbox, Microsoft, blended her personal lessons with advice for the young minds.
She said it was important to have a hunger to learn and try new things and that it was okay to not know something as long as one had the hunger to learn and try it.
“You owe it to yourself to give yourself the opportunity to try new things… Until you try it, you will never know if it interests you or if you can be good at it,” she said.
Saiara, who also got The Daily Star award during the 2009 and 2011 ceremonies, said she had learnt to be persistent in pursuing her goal.
Congratulating the awardees for their success, The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam said, “You must feel proud. You must feel confident and you must celebrate this tremendous achievement.”
He said the fundamental lesson of the world was that countries had developed and alienated themselves from nature. “But today, the world has reached a stage where climate change is threatening our existence. You, as students, must inculcate this feeling from the very beginning.”
He said, “However tall our buildings are, wide our roads are, however productive our factories are, are we, at the end of the day, harming nature?”
“Please be aware that unless we can bring harmony to the world, harmony to our own society, harmony to our life, all our good education, all our brilliant results will ultimately produce nothing,” he added.
Congratulating the outstanding achievers, Nazmur Rahim, head of retail banking at BRAC Bank Ltd, said, “You have brightened the image of Bangladesh globally. You have made us proud.”
He said the young people were leading digital transformation of the country and it was the young minds like the awardees who created many start-ups.
“I think only sky is the limit when it comes to youth innovation,” he said, adding that the young generations were changing the perception the world has about Bangladesh.
He also spoke about some of the offers that his bank was providing students for pursuing higher studies.
BRAC Bank has designed students’ file service in a way so that students can choose the universities of their choice without any hassle in fund transfer, he said, announcing a 20 percent discount on service charge for all the awardees.
Dr Yousuf Mahbubul Islam, vice chancellor of Daffodil International University, told the students that they would always have to ask “why” when they choose a subject to study or a career to pursue.
He suggested that the objective of whatever they do should be in the service of others.
Saidur Rahman, country manager of Pearson Edexcel, Bangladesh, said in the 21st century, education that was being imparted would define the development, progress and future of the nation.
“We have a collective social responsibility to prepare these students to face future challenges…,” he said.
“We are confident that these students will be able to overcome any challenges in future. So it is important that we take the right decision about education in these years which will shape our future for generations to come,” he added.
Tina Salem Manzoor, founding partner of MACES, called upon the awardees not to compromise their dreams.
“Dig deep in yourself to find out what motivates you and what you feel is the purpose of your life. What you want may not seem like the most financially rewarding career now, but if it is something you enjoy doing it will keep you happy and inspire you to do great things,” she said.
She urged the students to come back to Bangladesh after finishing studies abroad.
“Make yourselves world class professionals who can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best in the world,” she said, adding, “Brand yourselves and Bangladesh.”
MM Monirul Islam, managing director and CEO at the Guardian Life Insurance Limited, said insurance was a must for a healthy society, and that state of insurance in a country was an indicator of its development.
He said Guardian Life Insurance was working in this area to build a healthy society and encouraged all to have insurance.
Zunaed Rabbani moderated the event.
We must make sure that none of us becomes educated monsters:
“Let’s pledge that we will put our talents and education to good use. We must make sure that none of us becomes educated monsters,” said Hanzalah Choudhury, who got the highest number of A’s among the country’s A-level candidates.
Hanzalah Choudhury, a student of Yale International School has mentioned a number of important points in his award acceptance speech. This is for the first time; a student from the Yale International School has achieved highest marks in the country. Most importantly, students from a number of prominent English medium schools in Dhaka such as Scholastica School, South Breeze, Dhaka International School, Bangladesh International School, Maple Leaf etc have failed in proving their brilliance and excellence.
Full text of Hanzalah Choudhury’s speech:
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Today, I stand here not to share my story but to share my thoughts. Today, I want us all to pledge that beginning this very moment, we will see humankind as one, a single entity.
Whatever we do, we strive for, should be beneficial to us and the people around us. Most of us would like to pursue higher education but it should be reaffirmed that academics isn’t even remotely the most important thing in life – our contributions to humanity are paramount.
Let’s pledge that we will put our talents and education into good use – we must make sure that none of us becomes an educated monster. Let us strive together in building a better world for us and generations to come. While trying, we will face challenges, we may even fall, but then we shall surely rise again. There will be ups and downs, as it is life and life is certainly not going to be all fun. Mostly because it’s life and not the Ellen DeGeneres show. But we must succeed. Try and triumph! And we shall as we can.
May the force be with you and us.
What the parents of Hanzalah Choudhury said:
Hanzalah Choudhury is the son of Shahnaz Choudhury and internationally acclaimed multi-award winning journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. On Hanzalah Choudhury’s achievement, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury said, “Every credit goes to my wife, Shahnaz Choudhury. Moreover, Hanzalah himself has worked hard. Definitely this achievement will inspire him in his future in achieving similar results in higher education. I do hope, he will brighten the image of Bangladesh to the world and will dedicate himself towards service of the humanity”.
Shahnaz Choudhury said, “Children need to be given liberty of choosing their career. Children should never be put under pressure by the parents for spending hours on studies. Such pressure would actually turn studying into a bitter issue. Give them the liberty; let them only realize the importance of studying for building a better future. Then they surely will do the right thing. Never ever become a corporal punisher to your children. Give them your love, affection and attention. They will ultimately make you feel proud and happy”.