Value and Self Learning: A Lived Experience of the Liberation War

 Pamelia Khaled:


My father!
A benevolent man
Walking in his wooden sandals, tick, tick, tick!
Shadowing everywhere I go
When I am high or low!
Walking in my everyday life!
Viewing my world through a childhood rhyme
 Telling stories of rustling grass and sparkling dew in the early morning,
 Marveling at the beauty of rippling water in the sunlight!
Waving at me the scarf of beautiful dusty rose clouds in the evening,
Wandering with his magic wand, in my thinking heart, swaying mind and lucid spirit!

Here I narrated about ‘Value’ and ‘Self’,and how it was important for my father to teach.My lived experience is related to his educational method and his philosophical idea, and I chose him as my pathway of learning.  My lived experience,informal home environment / parental education, my father’s universal ideas and his actions all directly linked to my educational philosophy.  My father’s motto to teach value relates to the ancient India’s old teaching method: Whole child building (Shopmpurna Manushya, a whole child).He nurtured the idea of self/soul building and used it to save his community. He taught us how to develop self/soul through his actions during The Liberation War.  The Liberation War 1971 thus has a big impact on my life.

I was raised in a liberal Muslim family in Bangladesh and have never been confronted with conservative ideas of Islam. I grew up in a Hindu neighborhood, thus I had the liberty of participating in rituals of other cultures and joining festivals of different faiths. As an M.Phil. student in the Anthropology Department at Dhaka University, I became interested in anthropological studies of cultures in different parts of the world, including Bengali Muslims and the Hindu culture of British India and what was then Bengal. My Master’s degrees in Sociology and Environmental Studies also allowed me to further develop a theoretical understanding of culture, people, society, gender relations, development, education and politics.

My father’s biography and his education and religious philosophy have a deep impact on my education, especially on the development of my voice and agency. My father was a proponent of education, a gender-sensitive community leader and business man, enlightened by the Indian Renaissance and its various movements. In 1866, scholars who were inspired by the great eighteenth-century thinker, Shah Wali Ullah established an Islamic institution, the famous Darul Ulum of Deoband in Northern India, the aim was reviving a rigorous study of the traditional Islamic disciplines (BEI, 2011). It was significant that being a Bengali Muslim student of Deoband, my father was inspired by the endeavor of the then secular leadership. In 1947 the country (Pakistan) was formed based on religion, Islam; however, the leadership was in secular hands and their aim was to construct a more liberal, peaceful Islamic society. Like other Deobandis, my father was against the partition of India based on sectarian lines. He was a proponent of democratic government, a believer of religious freedom, peace and tolerance.

His religious educational background not only engaged him in traditional religious sciences (revealed Islamic sciences),which included studying different languages; for example, Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, Bengali, Hindi, English, logic and other rationalistic disciplines in addition to science and math education. My father’s liberal philosophy about science and religious views, his wider understanding about Islam’s compatibility with science and the necessity of learning the rationalist disciplines such as math and science also had an impact on my personal development and my emotional, mental, spiritual and holistic education. I was nurtured in a holistic home environment and indeed believe that holistic pedagogy supported me and nourished my soul in my development as a whole child. Broadening your horizon and taking action (vision to action) will bring freedom (to be a happy, free self): this was my father’s philosophy. He recited a verse to me often with the action to accompany the words: “One step, then another (Ak pa ak pa kori)/ Two steps are made (Dui pa ogroshori)”. This verse is from my father’s favorite Bengali poem, which tells us how we can improve ourselves gradually and move from one struggle to another. This has been the foundation of my life curriculum.

Art was a big part of my education in my family. To teach shapes, my father first taught us how to draw a banyan tree. My mother helped us to make pottery, and in addition to learning colors, shapes and sizes, and the sheer pleasure of working with the sticky clay, my mother used storytelling and familiar ceramic objects to teach math, using beautiful earthen dolls she bought during the Bengali New Year festival. My father, too, told stories throughout my childhood. I vividly remember lying on bamboo mats at night with my brothers and sisters on the rooftop of our Brahmaputra riverside home, learning about constellations through his colorful and beautiful stories of the seven sisters of Indian astronomy

My father not only taught the names of the stars and terrestrial planets, lying on the roof top in the night, he also taught me (us) where earth belongs in the solar system and what is the distance between earth and other planets, and how earth rotates around the sun. He also took us to agricultural fair each year to familiarize us with the varieties of exotic fruits and vegetables grown locally. To teach about earth, a huge world wall map was hung in our study room. That map was used often to teach the names of different parts of the world and water bodies. For practical experience, he arranged visits to local factories, mills and industries and encouraged us to write about our visit experiences. These learning experiences have a deep impact on my understanding of life as an individual and researcher. He had a curious mind and was interested to gather knowledge about science, health science and discoveries. His teaching methods demonstrate a culturally sensitive but radical pedagogy, which was more useful. Based on my personal experience, I discuss the inclusion of informal and natural pedagogies for enhancing learners’ perceptions by connecting body, mind and soul to interpret information, recognize objects, and organize them.

My autobiography, research design, and my proposed radical pedagogy framework about Bangladesh science education are interconnected. Developing a peaceful society, fostering a whole child, and creating universal love in the child is important. I am lucky that I was nurtured by my parents with all those ideas. Currently, Bangladesh faces constant internal conflict, and peaceful co-existence is often under threat. A contemplative, radical pedagogy has the potential and strength to reduce the conflict by teaching a culture of peace through the science curricula. Without learner centered approach in teaching, requiring both reflection and action, the transformation of pedagogy into a radical pedagogy is impossible. My personal experiences with holistic education in the home environment, parental involvement in my natural and informal education leads me to design a radical pedagogy framework that can form a part of a whole child curriculum (in Sanskrit Sompurna Manushya Pathyakrama) that can transform the secondary science education in Bangladesh.

About lessons on values and responsibility, I narrate a brief story of   the Liberation War, Bangladesh. In 1971 war started in the capital city of Dhaka, Bangladesh  and rapidly spread to the other parts of the country at a massive scale with mass killings of innocent Bengalis in the then East Pakistan. At the beginning of the war, my father could not decide whether to send off right away all his children to our grand father’s home for our safety and security, or to continue with our schooling. As he had always been concerned about our education, he did not want us to miss school due to the war.  Unfortunately, in 1971 the plunderers, the collaborators of the then Pakistan Army arrested my brother, who was an exuberant, talented young man of 23, who was then a graduate student and a famous soccer player of his time. They tortured him brutally and handed him over to the Pakistan Army to be further tormented. They were exalted and proud that they had caught a freedom fighter, Muktijodhdha. My father put in all his efforts to release his son, but failed.

One night my brother broke the prison window and came home by walking barefoot, more than 10 miles, along Brahmaputra River. An urgent telegram came to my father: Your son escaped from the prison if he has reached at your home, hand over him to Pak Army immediately; otherwise, your village will be burned by tonight. I remember that dark night vividly, as my mom refused to hand over my brother to Pak Army. My devastated, tortured, broken brother, protested vigorously against going back to Pak prison. He showed both his sore and tortured wrists, arms and legs to my parents. A shattered young man came home to rest on his mother lap, but could not. My father,in consideration of his people’s safety, comforted my brother that he will be home soonand painfully handed him over to the Pak Army on that murky night, with a big hopethat his honesty will be respected and my brother will be freed. Even though my father took all precautions to keep us safe, the worst happened. The risk he took to keep us all together safe under his warm arms did not work out the way he had thought. That dreary night, which had been hovering over us like a dark thundering cloud for months was evil.My brother was gone, gone forever, he did not return home after that murky night! My family became a victim of the genocide in 1971.

However, my father was extremely courageous! At the beginning of the war, Hindu male neighbors were caught by the Pak-collaborators to be shot by the side of the Brahmaputra River. My father argued with the Pak collaborators and defended his Hindus neighbors who have been living in that village for generations. He saved many innocent people’s life.He also sheltered and fed 40 Hindu women and children in our home appointing a Hindu cook. After the war, when exalted and angry freedom fighters Muktijodhdhas (freedom fighters) were about to shoot Urdu speaking Biharis in our neighborhood, he saved them too.

He demonstrated that ‘righteousness is a virtue’, by saving his larger community (Hindus, Muslims, Bengalis, and Biharis) in exchange for his son’s humiliation and life.

My father had a mystical personality and courage to stand up against any injustice to people. He showed courage to save lives and to ensure peace in the community. His brave and bold actions teach us, social responsibility towards people regardless of language, color, caste, race and religion. I find my educational philosophy loving and kindness is linked to my lived experience. My father’s transcendental personality has a deep link understanding and developing my educational theories: Value and self, spirituality (selfless personality), recognition of dualism of the individual and the universal humanity, nurturing truth, love and care for others, Mukti (freedom) of self (inculcate a learner with a respect to culture), these all are important to develop a whole person (a whole individual). I acknowledge that my father’s morals, values, peace and non-violence concepts guide and design my own life and educational framework.

The writer is an anthropologist and environmentalist. She is pursuing her PhD research on Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto, Canada. [email protected]


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