Hunger Strike for MPO Facilities: Teachers 'won't budge on their demand'
When teachers and students across the country celebrated the textbook festival yesterday, a section of teachers was observing a hunger strike unto death in the capital, demanding their inclusion in the government's Monthly Pay Order (MPO) facilities.
The strike entered the second day yesterday with the teachers vowing not to return to their workplaces until their demand is met. At least 16 of them fell ill and some of them were admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, said leaders of the agitating teachers.
"We did not take part in the textbook festival and will not give lessons to students either until our demand is realised. We have no choice but to remain on the streets for our demand," said Golam Mahmudunnabi, president of a federation leading the programme.
"Two days have passed, but nobody from the government has contacted us," he told The Daily Star last night.
Several hundred teachers under the banner of "Non-MPO Shikhya Pratishthan Shikhyak Karmachari Federation" started the fast unto death programme on Sunday in front of the Jatiya Press Club after staging a sit-in protest at the same place for five consecutive days.
The government yesterday started distributing 35.42 crore copies of free textbooks to over 4.37 crore students from class-I to class-IX amid a festivity. Their classes will begin shortly.
But these non-MPO teachers are on the streets to press home their demand for salary from the government.
Many of them passed Sunday night lying on polythene sheets and newspapers with blankets and shawls under the open sky.
Yesterday, a number of female teachers along with their children joined their colleagues.
"I have brought my son with me as we don't want to return home empty-handed," said one of the female teachers who came from Dinajpur. Her child fell asleep on her shoulder.
Many of them were crying while describing their agonies.
"Teaching the future generation without any salary for years is inhuman. We urged the government to look at us," said Mokhlesar Rahman, a teacher from Naogaon.
On Saturday, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid urged the teachers to end their agitation and return home. Rejecting the call, they started their hunger strike next day.
The number of non-MPO education institutions across the country is 5,242, where around 80,000 teachers are working without any pay, some for more than a decade, said the federation leaders.
This is because the schools do not have the ability to pay the teachers, while the government stopped enlisting the institutions for MPO due to "fund crisis".
Under the MPO scheme, the government gives 100 percent basic to the teachers of non-government schools. The teachers also get a lump sum amount as other allowances from the MPO.
As per rules, an education institution first comes under the MPO facilities followed by its teachers getting enlisted in the government payroll.
After a suspension of six years by the then BNP-led alliance government, the Awami League-led government revived the MPO facility in 2010 as per its electoral pledge and enlisted 1,624 private secondary and higher secondary schools and colleges in the MPO scheme.
The rest of the non-MPO teachers have been staging demonstrations for MPO facilities since then.
Currently, more than four lakh teachers and employees of 26,340 secondary schools, colleges, madrasas and technical institutes get the MPO facilities.