Children learn about historical facts and figures in many ways. When I was a school student, we could not reliably learn about Bangabandhu from textbooks. How the historical facts were conveyed through formal education depended on the political preferences of the ruling party of a period. We always found incomplete accounts of history in the textbook contents. This is why families had to play a vital role in teaching kids about Bangabandhu and how he was the central figure of Bangladesh's independence.
I was introduced to the "poet of politics", the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, by my father. He used to show me documentaries on Bangabandhu and Bangladesh. From then on, I started believing that Bangabandhu and Bangladesh are synonymous.
My child-heart was filled with courage and boldness as I internalised his great personality. I used to repeatedly utter what Bangabandhu said courageously, 'dabaye rakhte parba na'. I thank my father wholeheartedly for raising a warrior in me by igniting Bangabandhu's ideologies inside me. Now that I am a parent, it is my responsibility to pass on the information and facts about Bangabandhu to my children.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born on 17 March 1920. This day is also marked as National Children's Day in Bangladesh. The day is observed on 17 March to coincide with the birth anniversary of Bangabandhu, in order to recognise his contribution to children's rights and to celebrate the love he had for children. It is a public holiday in our country.
Children enjoy a day-off and visit different places with their parents and friends to celebrate the day. Many art, recitation and cultural competitions are arranged for children all over the country. Young learners of all strata and ages memorise and perform his iconic 7 March speech and recite poems on Bangabandhu. Patriotic songs are played and performed all day long, creating a great atmosphere of youthfulness and joy.
But do these young minds really understand what they memorise and recite? Do they know what a towering figure Bangabandhu actually was? I have been looking at the current textbook materials of the national curriculum. The work is undoubtedly commendable. The way the contents of the book 'Bangladesh o Bishwa Porichoy' is designed showcases quite a clear picture of Bangladesh and the liberation war. But how much our children know about Bangabandhu is the question and a matter of concern now. In most cases, the children only get to know the most notable information about Bangabandhu and his legacy. To turn the information into knowledge is the crucial responsibility of the adults.
What children should be taught first and foremost, is who Bangabandhu really was, in a truly unbiased way. They should learn first that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the father of the nation, a nation one that accommodates people of all religions, races, sexes and political ideologies. He is not the sole property of the Bangladesh Awami League and Bangladesh Chhatra League.
If we deny this fact, we will eventually reject our collective national identity. Although many people around us capitalise Bangabandhu and use his name as a brand, people like Barrister Moudud Ahmed, who is a prominent figure of the opposition, beautifully praised the Father of the Nation.
In his book 'Bangladesh: The Era of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman', Barrister Moudud Ahmed writes, "More pragmatic, efficient, capable and dynamic political personalities than Sheikh Mujibur Rahman might have emerged or may emerge, but it will be very difficult to find someone who has contributed more to the independence movement of Bangladesh and the shaping of its national identity." These words, coming from someone who was a political opponent of the Awami League, simply proves the universality of Bangabandhu.
Another essential thing to know about Bangabandhu is the struggle in his personal life. His political life is explored and discussed constantly. However, the unbearable and unthinkable difficulties he had to face in his personal life also require our children's attention.
Bangabandhu's autobiography 'The Unfinished Memoir' details his struggle as a father and a husband, and the young generation should know about this side of his life. Although Bangabandhu spent many years of his life in incarceration, he was a family man. But he never could enjoy normal family life.
When he was struggling and fighting for the rights of Bangladeshi people, his family had to sacrifice their time with him. One anecdote reveals how this affected that family. The child Sheikh Kamal at one point didn't realise that Bangabandhu was his father, as he was so occupied with his political activism. Kamal asked his sister, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, "Hasu apa, Hasu apa, can I also call your father 'abba'?"
Bangamata Sheikh Fojilatunnesa's enormous sacrifices, support and love helped Bangabandhu sacrifice his entire life for the betterment of the country. Our future generation can learn how a couple that understands and supports each other can transform a nation together, as Bangabandhu did with his loving wife's support.
Bangabandhu's political life and contributions to the country are written in many books and articles. Our children should read beyond these prescribed pages. Two very useful and authentic sources are the books written by Bangabandhu himself: The Unfinished Memoir and The Prison Diaries. With a lot of students from the younger generations getting educated in English medium schools, these books can be more approachable to them. Both books have been translated into English by the eminent scholar and translator Professor Fakrul Alam, making them very authoritative and reliable .
Bangabandhu's assassination is also an important event that children should learn about. He was brutally murdered by his own people. His entire family, fortunately except two of his daughters, was shot dead in their Dhanmondi house. But the killers failed to kill Bangabandhu's ideals, as they hoped.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is not a brand to be marketed or showcased for selfish purposes. He is the architect of an independent country, our country. He dreamt of a democratic country free from all sorts of discrimination and exploitation. He wanted our children to breathe freely and live with utmost pride and dignity. He wanted our children to build a Sonar Bangla, a dream that we inherited from him.
On this National Children's Day, let us enlighten our children with authentic details about Bangabandhu and the monumental place he holds in our history. It would be the perfect opportunity for parents to buy Bangabandhu's books for their children. They will go through the pages, revisit the glorious past and learn about our iconic leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Jainab Tabassum Banu Sonali is a lecturer at the Department of English Language and Literature at Premier University Chittagong