Almost 95 per cent education institutions have been closed due to class suspension by the teachers of non-government schools, colleges and madrashas but the government is yet to show any eagerness to take any pragmatic step.
In demanding 100 per cent salary from the government, non-government teachers have called strike in their educational institutions, which is seriously hampering the academic lives of thousands of pupils as almost 95 per cent students of the country are studying in non-government educational institutions. Though the guardians of the students have been worried at the class suspension programme by teachers, the government seems not at all worried. The civil society and even people of all strata of the society have been surprised at the non-response of the government.
Considering the current silence of the government about the demand fulfillment of non-government teachers, it seems that this is not an issue of national interest. But the teachers have not gone for any vandalism in extracting their demands. Here, we may thank the teacher's community as they could invite the students and guardians to join the movement. The non-government teachers' front have been maintaining discipline all the while. Even after the police torture in some cases they have not committed any untoward activity.
Five biggest alliances of teachers and employees called strike but when National Front of Teachers and Employees (NFTE) called strike on July 8 last. Almost all the non-government educational institutions were closed. These institutions have been closed due to the strike called by teachers of as many as 26,212 institutions. Only 846 government educational institutions are running their academic study, which constitute only 5 per cent of the total number.
In the meantime, NFTE coordinator and convener Kazi Faruq Ahmed announced that they would continue their strike until the government meets their 8-point demand. The NFTE convener also expressed his wrath saying that the government is not showing friendly attitude towards them. The police forces thwarted the buses carrying the teachers who were heading toward joining Central Shahid Minar, he complained.
It can easily be stated that teachers' movement is a non-political movement. It has no political bias and it does represent the interest of any specific political party in the country. Now the burning question is: to what extent is it logical to harass the teachers by law enforcing members?
Now we may look back to the much talked about 8-point demand of non-government teachers.
1) According to the election manifesto of the government, they demanded 10 per cent increased salary from the government, new salary scale on the background of spiraling price effect and an interim arrangement of 30 per cent dearness allowance, promotion, festival allowance, without giving medical allowance and increment according to 1991 salary scale they demanded it according to 1997, instead of Tk 100 as house rent they demand considerable amount and income tax payment system like government teachers.
2) Introduction of service rules for third and fourth-class employees and reformation of teachers' existing service rule.
3) Stopping the political recruitment and undergraduate in governing body in educational instructions for time-bound management and reform.
4) Reinstatement of welfare trust and introduction of full pension system.
5) Stop closing the nearly 10,000 educational institutions and stop conspiracy of sacking almost 1,50,000 teachers and reinstate the temporarily sacked teachers.
6) Recruit teachers by the public service commission so that the whole process becomes corruption-free.
7) Cancel all the black laws announced in the name of educational reform to destroy education.
8) Implement the ILO recommendations which is closely associated with the dignity of teachers.
Now we can judge the logical support behind these demands. When non-government teachers were observing strike in 2001 today's prime minister and the then leader of the opposition Khaleda Zia after performing umrah from Mekkah went there to break their strike and she promised to give 100 per cent salary if her party would go to power. Even she mentioned this commitment in section 3 of her election manifesto. But even after passing more than four and a half years her government has not met the demands and there has been no promise in the last budget about the teachers' demand.
The history of promotion in case of non-government teachers is also an episode of deprivation. Teachers working in non-government educational institutions sees the picture of deprivation when they just enter the work place. A teacher even with PhD will enjoy only one promotion throughout his career. He or she will be promoted to assistant professor form lecturer, which is absolutely farcical and irrational as government teachers depending on qualification get promotion time to time. With proper qualification teachers in government educational institutions may be promoted to associate professor and finally professor. Why is there discriminatory promotion system in the educational institutions? Maybe the response from the government is: they are the teachers of non-government educations institutions, they are not the teachers of government.
During the tenure of present government ,teachers and employees have enjoyed festival allowance in partial amount and in some case employees have enjoyed more amount than teachers. Festival allowance should be paid in full amount and it must not be paid in partial amount. Only full payment in case of festival allowance will solve the existing crisis related to the payment of festival allowance. And the same mathematical calculation may be applicable to medical allowance and increment. According to the salary scale of 1991, both government and non-government teachers received Tk 150 as medical allowance but according to the salary scale implemented on July 1, 2006 the government teachers will enjoy Tk 500 each but non-government teachers will get the same amount of Tk 150.
The issue of house rent in case of non-government teachers has been a matter of dishonour. Indeed this is a farce and joke that even the chief of an educational institution and a fourth class employee gets Tk 100 as house rent. And over the last 22 years the teachers have been receiving Tk 100 as house rent. With Tk 100 what kind of house may be rented in the country now and what could be the location?
In the name of the welfare trust the government deducted 8 per cent from the salary of the non-government teachers. So the house rent of Tk 100 has been reduced to Tk 92. The second issue of NFTE about service rule is really important. The rules of job are vitally important as this works as the safeguard of job. But current rules of job in Bangladesh is not at all modern and suitable. Though there is a system for teachers, there is no system for the fourth-class employees.
Another shocking issue is the management of educational institutions are politically biased. Such management often destroy the normal flow of academic activities. They sometime misbehave with the highly educated teachers.
The government has reformed the teacher recruitment system through introducing Non-government Teachers' Registration and Certificate Authority (NTRCA). This front is demanding a special public service commission. Through setting special public service commission for recruiting teachers in non-government teachers the government may resolve this critical issue, which will also help improve the quality of education in the country.
Reasonable salary and considerable amount of medical allowance with increment will pave the way of making the teachers call off the strike. And there lies the solution to the fate of thousands of students.
Dr. Md. Saidur Rahman is assistant professor, English in Chuknagar College, Khulna and commentator, Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Betar