Dhaka University introduced a student promotion and support unit to arrange part-time jobs for students from the lower-income groups at the institutions, but in around a year, it has made little progress.Only 60 students received the opportunity to work as part-timers in the seminar libraries under the scheme.
The unit also organised a workshop on effective communication skill development for 150 students from both arts and science faculties for the first time.
The students who got part-time jobs through the unit believe they could not enhance their skills by working only in the seminar libraries but it would have been beneficial for them had they been engaged in administrative work.
The workshop also needs to continue for more students, they say.The university launched the student support unit last September to create opportunities for students to work part-time on weekends and receive work-related training.
The syndicate approved the formation of the support unit of five members in its meeting on Aug 30 last year.The unit is supposed to have an honorary adviser, a deputy director, an assistant director, an office assistant cum computer operator, and an office attendant.But currently, it is running with two staff members only.Also, the unit has been allotted space for its office at the Teachers-Students Centre (TSC). They are yet to set up an office because of a fund crunch.
The unit has been designed to offer work opportunities to 400 students per year from 83 departments and 13 institutes under the university.The students, however, are not getting enough work opportunities as not all departments and institutes have seminar libraries.
Some of the students working under the unit said they work four hours on Fridays and five hours on Saturdays in the seminar libraries and receive Tk 500 as an honorarium per day.
A student is allowed to do the part-time job provided by the unit for three months and then the job is transferred to another student.
“While working at the department seminar library, my key task was to open and shut the seminar on time. Also, I had to stay at the seminar and take responsibility to maintain the books, journals, and furniture.
It was my job to ensure the students could sit and study at the library without any disruption,” said Farzana Mili, a student of the Sanskrit department.
The scope of part-time work for students should be expanded beyond the seminar libraries, believes Tanvir Ahmed, a student at the nuclear engineering department.
“I worked at the seminar library for three months and feel that students should work at other places. They should be allowed to work part-time at the administrative building, offices, TSC and other places which have ICT skill-based tasks to be done,” he said.
Meteorology department student Fahimul Islam feels that students can work in the computer labs and the libraries in the residential halls.
“The Registrar Building has a wide scope for students to work. We always experience delays in the services provided there. Engaging the students will propel the pace of their work while the students will be able to attain certain skills,” Fahimul said.
Professor Tanjim Uddin Khan of the international relations department completed his higher studies in the United Kingdom and Australia.
He shared his experience of students working as part-timers in other countries. “The foreign universities have job centres to provide part-time opportunities to students,” he said.
“They have the provision of teaching assistantship and research assistantship. Most of the time Master’s and PhD students are engaged in teaching assistantships. But we don’t have that structure here. We can’t do it here without an overhaul of the entire system. The university should ponder on it,” he said.
Students will not be able to enhance their skills when their workplace is limited to a seminar library, said Prof Tanjim.“They should be given a chance to work in the offices.
They can be given different responsibilities at the residential halls. There are a good number of research centres in the university where they can work.”
They are trying to expand the scope of the work for the Student Promotion and Support Unit, said its adviser Prof Rezaul Kabir. “We’ve organised an Effective Communication Skill Development workshop and will organise one every month.
It will enhance the communication skills of the students enabling them to find jobs at the national and international levels,” he said.
When asked why the unit was yet to set up its office, Prof Kabir said it would be done soon.“We already got a space allocated at the TSC and received the funding for civil work and furniture. We hope to open the office by October.”
“It is more important to see if the students are developing skills instead of counting the number of part-time jobs given to them. That’s why we organised the Effective Communication Skill Development workshop and will continue to organise more workshops,” said Vice Chancellor Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman.
He shared the university’s initiatives to assist the students with financial needs. “We have different programmes for the students with financial needs. We have raised a trust fund and almost reached 400. Many students are receiving scholarships.”
“But we also need some instant liquid money. We’re trying to expand the scope of work for our students. A few posts will be developed at the student Promotion and Support Unit itself.”
Prof Akhtaruzzaman said some posts would be created at the foreign affairs office and other offices in the university.These are, however, small in numbers and not at a large scale.Even then it will leave an impact on the students, he said.
When asked if the students can be allowed to work as research assistants or teaching assistants, the vice chancellor said it would need a different formula.He said effective communication skills were the most important for students.
Students could not be allowed to work at the administrative offices as it would have a different impact, said the vice-chancellor.“For instance, there are some tasks at the office of the exam controller but it needs secrecy. So, we can’t engage the students there.”
“We will create some work sectors for the students where they can be useful to speed up the work and also to enhance the work quality.”
[Writing in English by Sabrina Karim Murshed; editing by Osham-Ul-Sufian Talukder]