‘We’re left with no choice’

Hundreds of secondary school teachers have been protesting in front of Jatiya Press Club for the past two weeks, demanding nationalisation of secondary educational institutions.

Two meetings — one with Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education and another with Education Minister Dipu Moni — have also been held to resolve the matter.

However, the issue is yet to be solved.

Terming the meeting with Dipu Moni “unfruitful”, teachers continue to protest over the “discrimination” in salaries among those appointed in government schools and those registered under the monthly pay order (PMO) who are currently serving in privately-run institutions.

“We joined with the same qualification as the teachers in government schools. But they receive higher salaries and more financial benefits,” said Bhabesh Chandra Dhali from Khulna’s Koyra upazila.

Entry-level teachers in private schools receive a basic salary of Tk 12,500 with an additional Tk 1,000 as rent, Tk 500 as medical allowance, and 25 percent of their basic salary as festival bonuses, informed Obaidur Rahman, headteacher of Damukdia Durgapur Abdul Aziz High School.

However, teachers at government schools get 16,000 as basic, 45 percent of this as house rent and a medical allowance of Tk 1,500 per month. They also get full basic salary as festival allowances, he said.

“We have been pressing this demand for a long time but to no avail. We won’t leave the road until our demand is met,” he asserted.

This discrimination has compelled many to resort to a secondary profession, mentioned, Mojibur Rahman, who has been teaching at Ganga Dhardi High School in Faridpur for the last 26 years.

“I have to spend over Tk 30,000 to run my family, which include the academic expenses of my three children. I had to take up farming as a secondary means of earning to suffice my family’s needs,” he added.

Asked about the impact of suspended classes on the students, Mojibur Rahman, a protesting teacher, said, “I know this is harming my students. But this is also important for us. I hope they will understand our situation. We are left with no choice but to protest.”

The teachers’ skills, infrastructures, and education quality are not the same across all schools. It is important to determine that the state has the financial capacity and the schools have the aforementioned resources, said Rasheda K Choudhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education.

“Nationalisation of secondary education is necessary but the country is not ready for it yet. The process would have been easier had the authorities addressed the issue earlier,” she added.

The teachers, during a meeting with a former cabinet secretary, expressed their urge to meet the prime minister, said Sheikh Kawsar Ahmed, general secretary of Bangladesh Teachers’ Association.

Dipu Moni, in a meeting on Monday, said nationalising private educational institutions before the upcoming parliamentary elections would not be possible.

She, however, declared two committees to look into the issue.

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