The unspeakable plight of the non-MPO teachers

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Emdadul Haque
Published : 16:56, Feb 22, 2019 | Updated : 17:16, Feb 22, 2019

Emdadul HaqueSo far as our history goes, the hundred years of British colonial rule plus twenty four years of Pakistani domination placed a number of obstacles on our education sector. As a new era of emancipation began in 1971, a breeze of propitious change activated our education. Since then, a well-thought out journey has begun in a positive direction. Now, we cannot deny that our education has seen a sustainable development. The country is served by a requisite number of institutes functioning both in central and interior parts of the country. The target of boosting the rate of literacy and numeracy has been achieved. The education sector, despite this tremendous success, has been unable to fulfil the countrymen’s expectations in some areas. The sad tale of the non-MPO teachers may be seen as one example of this.
It goes without saying that the institutes- the core of our education- are not all officially run or set up, but governmentised or MPO enlisted sporadically. Nor are they government patronised at the planning stage or even during a later phase. Once the local elite established Jessore MM College on their own without any monetary help or logistical support from the government side. While functioning in full swing as a well-established institute, it caught the attention of the so-called government and got nationalised. All the high Schools and colleges have made a better transition from non-government institutes to government institutes or from non-MPO to MPO level. From the British days to post-war Bangladesh, the same situation has been continuing. In line with this long-running trend not only during BNP government but also during the Awami League government’s terms, many high schools along with colleges have mushroomed in the country under the auspices of the political leaders from 1994 to 2005. The number of institutes of such category is around 7,700. These have manpower of 80,000 teachers plus a good number of non-teaching staff as auxiliary workers. Regrettably, the local big-wigs in collaboration with their cohorts from the civil society have sold these jobs to them for exorbitant prices ranging from Tk 200,000 to Tk 600,000 with the promise of making their service remunerative. But at the end, their promise has turned out to be nothing but a bluff.
Since the said time to the present moment, these teachers have been serving in their institutes as unpaid professionals and the duration of their service consists of around two decades. This unsalaried army has submitted their demand of being incorporated into MPO before the government repeatedly. Their protests whether peaceful or violent, made no difference. They have implored government to implement their demand through instalments because of the resource constraint. Some months ago, as a last ditch attempt, they congregated in Dhaka and held an indefinite hunger strike program determinedly. A good number of unfed teachers got ill enough to be hospitalised. They ended their movement after the government of Sheikh Hasina reiterated her commitment to bring them under the MPO before long. The declaration from the government side was made either because it was inclined to solve the problem or it wanted to sabotage the revolt with lip service. What they have got in this regard is merely deception and the grief of deprivation.
Bizarrely enough, corrupt politicians have held these underprivileged people hostage. They have their exploitative policies to impose upon the latter. Too often the former are extorting a good sum of money from them giving them the false assurance of making their jobs remunerative. Many teachers have sold their paternal assets to manage money needed to satiate the top brass of politics. In a nutshell, in the name of alleviating their poverty, they are aggravating their misery. They cannot change their job for an alternative one not only because they are denied the chance to get back the money spent to 'buy the job' from the employers but also because the youthful period of their lives is already over. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to remark that they are undergoing a detention in a dungeon not knowing any way to escape. A prisoner in a jail knows when his imprisonment comes to an end. But these teachers languishing in the jail of life don’t know it. All they have secured from the nation is nothing but commitment after commitment followed by inaction.
No doubt, these teachers are rendering their dedicated service to the nation getting nothing in return, not even to maintain their families. If a teacher is an architect of the nation, teaching is a noble profession and the development of education is a key to the overall prosperity of a country are unquestionable truths, then why is the nation so inconsiderate to them? Surely such a disregard of teachers connotatively means a disregard of education. This very government of people has nationalised 27,000 non-government primary schools, which is a milestone. It is continuing the mission of nationalising the non-government high schools as well as colleges, which is an unsurpassable achievement in our education sector. Why has the government antipathy towards this class of downtrodden teachers continued? Isn’t it an infringement of human right or a massive humiliation of humanity? May be, we are a nation which seeks not the educators but the education. This attitude sounds very queer. This phenomenon is unprecedented since no country’s education is conducted by unsalaried manpower. By ignoring these teachers for so long, our government has indeed, tarnished the image of our education. However, the past is past. The nation should no longer turn away from this neglected class. The present government ought to take every possible initiative to integrate them into MPO without delay, seeing that they are the benefactors of the society for the aforesaid period of time. Well-paid teachers are an invariable pre-requisite for the expected amelioration of our education.
Emdadul Haque is a lecturer of English at the Moheshpur Government College in Jhenidah.

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