They will get MPO but on conditions
The government will soon bring new private educational institutions under its Monthly Pay Order facility but with some conditions, said Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday.
A meeting will be held this month to discuss the MPO enlistment, he told reporters in reply to a query at his ministry.
The minister, however, termed the ongoing movement of a section of school and college teachers of MPO-enlisted institutions over nationalisation of private education as "bogus", saying they will not accept their demand as the government follows a policy to nationalise institutions.
Several hundred teachers of non-MPO secondary educational institutions from across the country started a six-day hunger strike in front of the Jatiya Press Club on December 26 demanding MPO benefits. They called off the programme following Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's assurance that the demand would be met.
Yesterday, the finance minister said the MPO enlistment stalled as the education ministry never took any step to reform the existing MPO policy, despite his suggestions and insistence.
"The MPO-enlistment is a bad policy. I wanted it reformed, but [that] did not taken place. That is why I stalled giving MPO [enlisting new institutions under MPO scheme]. This time we'll have to give MPO and I will give it with conditions," Muhith said.
Explaining the conditions, he said a certain percentage of the money will be earmarked for the development of infrastructure, adding, "I will earmark a certain percentage for purchasing necessary materials."
He further said, "We have stalled the MPO-inclusion because it is beneficial only for the teachers; it's not beneficial to the system. I want to make it beneficial to the system and that is why I will attach some conditions so that the school system can benefit."
There is no scope of bringing any new educational institution under MPO facilities in the existing policy, he added.
Coming down hard on the MPO system, Muhith said it is the salary that the government gives to the teachers, but they were not sure how many of the institutions had adequate classrooms.
Citing an example, he said during a visit to a primary school, he found five teachers teaching students of many classes in a single room.
The finance minister said it is important for the country's education sector to make sure that students of different grades sit in separate classes even if it means taking classes "under trees".
The MPO is the government's share in the payroll of non-government educational institutions. Under the scheme, the government gives 100 percent basic salaries to the teachers of non-government schools. The teachers also get a small amount a month as allowances through the MPO.
After a suspension by the then BNP-led alliance government for around six years, the MPO facility was revived by the Awami League-led government in 2010, as it was one of the party's electoral pledges. A total of 1,624 secondary and higher secondary private schools and colleges were also included in the MPO.
According to leaders of Non-MPO Shikhya Pratishthan Shikhyak Karmachari Federation, there are 5,242 non-MPO educational institutions, where around 80,000 teachers are working without any pay, some for more than a decade.
After staging a sit-in for five consecutive days in front of the Jatiya Press Club, the agitating teachers and employees of government-recognised educational institutions started the hunger strike on December 31. They withdrew the strike on January 5 upon the PM's assurance.
The education ministry and its directorate have already started working on the MPO-enlistment. They are already preparing a list of non-MPO institutions after analysing their current status -- infrastructure, number of students and teachers, and their academic performance, said sources.
They will sit with the finance ministry soon over the issue and will start bringing the new institutions under MPO on the basis of the fund they get, they added.
"ABSURD" AND "BOGUS" DEMAND
Under the banner of "Besharkari Shikhkha Jatiyakaran Liaison Forum", a platform of five teacher's organisations, teachers of MPO-enlisted institutions started a demonstration on January 10 in front of Jatiya Press Club demanding nationalisation of private education.
The leaders of the platform said they will go for a hunger strike today if they did not get any assurance from the government about meeting their demand.
"We are going on an indefinite hunger strike tomorrow [today] as per our earlier announcement," Golam Mostofa Shaon, one of the leaders of the platform, told The Daily Star last night.
Terming the demand "absurd", the finance minister said the government does not have the capacity and the teachers will have to understand that.
"It's just bogus," he said.
"There is a policy on nationalisation and on the basis of the policy, the government has been nationalising new schools every year. We will follow the policy while nationalising the institutions. We will not accept their demand," he added.