Appreciation: Marine Academy Golden Jubilee

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Juldia, Chittagong, January 4 & 5, 2013

It was an excellent week-end, weather-wise and also as a well-coordinated event. With the massive decoration and pompousness, one could easily surmise it has been carefully orchestrated and executed. The organizing committee has put in a lot of work into the function. Thanks to the sponsors, funds were not an issue.

Juldia, once a remote region has suddenly become attractive and valuable. This has caught the eyes of several business people who would like to see it privatized, which means getting the land value at the cheap. Besides the value of the land, lies a history which began in 1962. We were here to celebrate the 50th year of the founding of the Marine Academy.

Operating the institution with a full complement of professional people was a challenge for the last few decades. The academy could not attract professional instructors due to unattractive salary and remoteness of the site. Most teachers would like to live in the city and commute rather than stay at the complex. This made the administration coterie a transient lot rather than a continuous management.  As a result things began to deteriorate.

We were here to enjoy the company of our alumni from various classes starting from the first to the 47th batch, the last to graduate just a few days ago. I could identify about 30 to 40 alumni from the pre-independence times. It included a contingent of Pakistani alumni who also appeared on a short notice. They had about 10 days to get their visas and arrange the flights.

As I left the sea in 1971, I lost touch with the other seafarers; and therefore, it was not possible for me to identify most alumni from the post-independence period. Based on my rough estimate in attendance was approximately 50 alumni from pre-independence time (1st to 9th batch), about 80 from 10th to the 30th batch. Remaining alumni were from the most recent batches. With family members and friends combined, I would estimate there were about a 1000 people attending.

The planning for the Golden Jubilee reportedly began in June of 2012 under the guidance of a committee.  Many in the diaspora complained they were not aware of any plans till November. Sifting through the emails, one could easily sense dissatisfaction by many alumni; mostly from abroad. Most appeared to have been looking towards the grand get together on the 50th anniversary of the marine Academy’s founding.

What we consider a big strategic flaw was trying to include political retinue of the present government including MPs and ministers to a grand gala event in Dhaka planned for January 18, 2013, with the event financed by some influential backers.  Smelling this, the alumni in the diaspora spoke out very loudly against the plan. Diaspora felt offended by not getting included in the preliminary discussions of the event which began in June of 2012. The committee that was set-up did not include any alumni in the diaspora; especially the associations in the USA, Europe, Singapore and Australia.

The organizing Committee finally decided to hold the celebrations on January 4 & 5, 2013 at the academy on a short notice.

Having failed to participate in the Golden Jubilee, the diaspora is still passionate in yet having another gathering sometimes at the end of 2013. It is to celebrate the 50th year rather quietly and amongst themselves. Obviously, a gathering at the academy would give them a nostalgic pilgrimage. The older alumni who are dispersed around the world only dream of the academy from their memories and certainly would arouse their emotions once they set foot on the site. Exchanging memories amongst class partners from the past by itself would be a life-time experience. Who knows, how many of them will be alive on the next anniversary (which will be the 75th year-the Platinum Jubilee).

The alumni from the earlier years would certainly be surprised to see the class sizes of 200 as opposed to 44 in our good old days. And also by inclusion of the girl cadets last year. The cadet population is huge in contrast to the earlier years.  The Marine Academy has been declared  the “Sheikh Mujib Maritime University” by the Prime Minister in 2012. Even though the naming of the University has a political connotation, it can certainly add to the respectability of the Academy in light of severe competition it has with the other institutions; namely the private academies that are mushrooming like no man’s business. It is also important to note that these private academies are mostly run by our own alumni for a profit motive and they seem to have no qualms competing with their own alma-mater. Will this help or harm the academy? Most alumni believe it will not help the academy.

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Apart from the competition from the private academies (some say their number is around 30), the Bangladesh Fisheries Academy also competes with the Marine Academy in that, they teach similar subjects and are producing cadets who join the high seas instead of the ocean going fishery vessels for which this academy was established.

Seeing all this chaos (like everything else in Bangladesh), we could safely assume that, the historic academy urgently needs attention of the upwardly mobile alumnus with all the vigor they can muster.  One has to appreciate, a successful alumni was the creation of the academy and therefore, should show his allegiance to this institution with his active participation in all forms. The Academy must be preserved.

Competition undoubtedly is good for a country and the economy. But a destructive competition (as it exists today) will bring down the stature of a good training institution carrying the good name of Bangladesh and having a world stature. Those of us who made it to the top should endeavor with all their might to revive the academy as the sole and prime source of sea-faring cadets from Bangladesh. To that end, they should congregate and have a mammoth gathering to celebrate their own Golden Jubilee this year at an opportune time and exchange views as to how to restore the good name of an institution that produced some of the leading members in our community both at home and abroad.

Bangladesh Maritime Museum

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A serious addition to the academy was the Bangladesh Maritime Museum in a small room at the old seamanship class building. The Commandant indicated that the museum area will be extended to include more artifacts. That is a good sign. It is to be noted that the USA chapter of the Juldia Marine Academy Alumni Association (JMAAA) took the initiative to obtain permission from the Bangladesh government to house the various artifacts inside. These were mostly donated by JMAAA USA. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Commandant MarEngr. Dr. Sajid Hussain, the museum became a reality as a joint collaboration between the government of Bangladesh and the JMAAA.

 

Article contributed by

Ghulam Suhrawardi; 6th Batch

  1. Md. Abdullah Al Awal .
    CSE Dept. SUST
    Sir,
    I had participated in the admission test of 50th batch. I had passed the written exam goodly. But even after publishing the admission result I am not qualified. Sir please can you tell me how can challenge bangladesh marine academy? Its a very great attraction for me to join in BMA though I am now in CSE dept.
    Thank you sir.
    Mobile-01829453202

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