When was the last time you felt exasperated about the state of affairs in the country, perhaps letting out an audible expression of annoyance? Perhaps, not quite that long back. Even with all the wonderful things we have going for us, it is sometimes challenging to not feel frustrated about the myriad of innate problems evident in our society, starting from corruption to inefficient infrastructure. True, the country’s economic growth indicators paint an optimistic scenario, yet the disturbing political state creates just as pessimistic a story. True, we have succeeded in gaining unparalleled momentum towards achieving MDGs, but so have we failed to protect many of our societal structures from corrosion. The question is not so much about what is wrong as it is about what we can do to enforce positive change. So what will it take to change Bangladesh?
Ejaj Ahmad, Founder and President of the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC), believes that the answer lies in a capable leadership base. Addressing the guests at the event “MIT Bangladeshi Students Association Dinner: Transforming Bangladesh through Youth Leadership” on October 6, 2014, Ahmad emphasized the significance of a dedicated and proficient leadership base comprised of individuals who have “competence, courage and compassion”. He encouraged students from institutions such as Harvard University and MIT present at the event to return to the country after the completion of their education, stating that a nation can achieve excellence only when its brightest minds are employing their talents towards the betterment of the country at large.
Ahmad’s own history is consistent with his advice for Bangladeshi students in foreign countries. In 2008, following his graduation from the Harvard Kennedy School, he returned to Bangladesh to found BYLC. Needless to say, he faced his share of struggles and persistent opposition from friends and family alike while establishing the institute, which is now helping to create the next generation of home-grown leaders. As a 2012 alum of the BBLT Junior 4 program of BYLC, I can attest to the impact of this organization in accomplishing its mission of creating effective leadership in the depths of our society.
Pursuing Ahmad’s words brought me to the distressing realization that indeed a lion’s share of the intellectual crème de la crème of Bangladesh are building careers abroad. This phenomenon of ‘brain drain’, as it is popularly called, seems to have escalated in recent years as an increasing share of the country’s youth is becoming inclined towards not just pursuing education in foreign countries but also settling down abroad.
As I look around me, it is not difficult to apprehend the resistance with which many of my friends treat the subject of returning to the country. Some cite the smaller breadth of opportunities while others blame the myriad of complexities facing the nation, and especially, the youth.
However, what needs to be understood is that this a cycle that could spin either way. On one hand is a vicious cycle where, stripped of its optimal potential, the nation slowly but inevitably sinks deeper into the complications existing already. On a different hand, this could be a cycle of increasing returns to margin-only when we have the best and brightest minds invested in the progress of the country. And only as such can we achieve excellence as an economically stable, productive and democratic nation.
The choice is yours to make. And it is not that difficult.