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“Tax on education; silence from civil society”
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“Tax on education; silence from civil society”

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Abdullah al Hasan photoStudents are protesting a tax on univesity fees, but Abdullah Al Hasan, 24, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Dhaka in Bangladesh, explains that the protest warrants wider support from the public.

Studying at a university is one of the biggest dreams of every student, especially the students who do well in academic results. In Bangladesh, every year, a lot of students score strongly in their examinations and they dream of studying at a university.

There are only a few public universities in Bangladesh, so most of the students do not get the rare chance to study at a public university paying a nominal fee. Either they go for National University or choose an expensive private university to fulfill their dreams. Since the National University of Bangladesh is moving ahead at a snail’s pace, most of the time students choose private universities instead.

Last month it was decided to impose a ten per cent Value Added Tax on education in private institutions in Bangladesh. Students protested against it as they raised their voices against this decision. Recently, the government decreased the VAT to 7.5 per cent. Now, the question is whether the decrease really makes a difference. Is it even a significant difference? Does it make the students happy?

Why would a student pay this 7.5 per cent VAT when the government is unable to provide enough public universities? Isn’t it the duty of government to ensure the availability of public institutions for higher studies? Isn’t it the duty of government to make it even easier than before for private university students? Why should a student pay VAT for a basic educational need? Apparently, it seems as if the government is not only incapable of providing enough public universities, but also is discouraging students from going for private universities to get higher education. This is a rare example in the whole world!

Here comes another issue. Some students from different institutions are trying to protest against this decision, but they are not getting proper support from civil society. So, where is the civil society of Bangladesh? We have a lot of educationalists, scholars, politicians and representatives of people who raise their voices whenever the country falls in trouble or any political turmoil happens. But when it comes down to education, nobody cares to utter a single word! No columns in newspapers, no interviews on TV channels, no posts on social media regarding the opinions of the civil society.

Is it the duty of only the students to protest against the VAT on education? We see that people often regard students as future leaders, so what are they doing to clear the path for those future leaders? What are they doing for the future generation of this country? If they do not let this generation sprout up properly, how do they expect it to run the country in future?

Is it because the government is imposing VAT on private universities and not in public universities? The standard of living of Bangladeshis is still low, so imposing VAT on education in private universities is undoubtedly an insane idea.

This country does not have enough educated people to participate in the development of the country. That’s a major problem, and taxing higher education will never be able to sort it out – rather it will make it worse. Education should never be considered a business. It’s one of the needs of people.

Besides, education is the most important investment for a student. Shackling higher education will never have a good outcome. The government should also think about the support of this generation. We remember how the current government made the best use of the consciousness of this generation regarding the war-criminal issue. It had full support of the youth to take charge of this country. Taxing higher education will not let them retain this support. This generation now knows how to protest, how to bring a change, how to raise a revolution.

The civil society should also come forward immediately to express their solidarity with the students. In 1971, the best brains of our country perished with the help of some war criminals. And, yes, we are still suffering from that loss. Only education can straighten it out. If the government and civil society do not want a brainless and uneducated country, they should take necessary steps as soon as possible. Canceling the VAT on education tops the list of those steps. It’s high time.

Photo: http://mrg.bz/fdpWuO

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About me:

Hi I’m from Bangladesh, the green land. Currently I’m studying marketing at North South University, Dhaka. I love to explore human minds. Writing is my favourite pastime. I always try to do research about people, politics, metaphysics, English and marketing.

I’m just an ordinary guy with some extra-ordinary dreams to be fulfilled. I believe a moment staying with family is just worth living. Friends are my oxygen.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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Abdullah Al Hasan

Dhaka, Bangladesh

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