Students of Viqarunnisa Noon School and College demonstrated in front of the institute's Bailey Road branch throughout yesterday over the suicide of one of their peers.
Aritry Adhikary, a ninth grader, was found hanging from the ceiling of her home in the capital's Shantinagar on Monday hours after she and her parents were allegedly insulted by some teachers of the school.
The death and the subsequent agitation, joined by parents, rocked the 66-year-old institute and prompted the education ministry and the school authorities to form two separate probe committees.
Besides, the High Court directed the education secretary to form another five-member committee headed by an additional secretary of the ministry to look into the matter.
The school authorities also issued a show-cause notice on Zinat Akhtar, the morning shift in-charge of the school, and ordered her to stay away from discharging duties.
But the measures could not appease the students and their parents who announced that they would resume demonstrations today.
Talking to The Daily Star, the grieving father, Dilip Adhikary, said he, his wife Beauty Adhikary, and Aritry went to the school on Monday after he got a phone call from the school authorities.
Around 11:30am, Zinat told them that Aritry was expelled after she was caught cheating in the annual exam the previous day. She also said Aritry would not be allowed to take the rest of the tests, he said.
"We apologised to the madam twice and sought a second chance, but madam and other female teachers told us that the decision had already been made. The madam spoke harshly and asked us to collect the transfer certificate tomorrow [on Tuesday]," said Dilip, a businessman.
Then Zinat took them to the acting principal, Nazneen Ferdous, who told them she was busy and that the decision had been made, he alleged.
At this, the parents and Aritry returned to their home.
Later in the day, Dilip said he went out and suddenly got a phone call from his wife who said Aritry was not opening the door of her room. Afterwards, they broke the door and found her.
Aritry was first taken to a local hospital and then to Dhaka Medical College Hospital where doctors pronounced her dead around 4:00pm.
As the news spread, other students and their guardians gathered in front of the institute yesterday and protested the handling of the matter by the authority of one of the most reputed schools for girls in the city.
The acting principal denied the allegation of insulting the parents and threatening to issue the TC.
"We have done it as per the school's disciplinary rules... An untoward incident has taken place. We are saddened. We regret it and apologise," she told reporters at her office while holding her palms together in an apologetic gesture.
A probe committee, with two guardians and a teacher, was formed and it was asked to submit its report in the next three days, she said.
"Action will be taken against anyone if found guilty," she told reporters.
Around 8:00pm, Dilip filed a case with Paltan Police Station accusing Nazneen, Zinat and Aritry's class teacher Hasna Hena of provoking the suicide, Shiblee Noman, additional deputy commissioner (Motijheel) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police told The Daily Star.
'WHO WILL TAKE RESPONSIBILITY?'
While demonstrating, the protesters called for Zinat's suspension.
Holding different placards that read "We demand justice for our friend, we demand answers", "Why do my sister commit suicide? Answer", "Principal needs to resign", "Education enlightens us, it does not kill us", "Education system made Aritry to hang herself, why?", the students chanted slogans "We want justice".
They also demanded removal of the principal.
"Who gave such a right to humiliate our parents? It is because of the insult, Aritry committed suicide," said one of her classmates.
Another student said, "I condemn the behaviour of our teachers. No student deserves to be humiliated in such a way."
"Who will take responsibility for the death?" she said.
Nasima Akhtar, a mother of a student, alleged that many teachers of the school often behave “roughly” with the students.
The incident also sparked a firestorm of protests on social media.
Besides, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP) and Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF) demanded exemplary punishment to the guilty.
While the students were protesting outside the school's administration building, teachers and acting principal Nazneen were found holding a series of closed-door meetings at the latter's office.
Talking to the reporters in the afternoon, Nazneen said the morning shift-in-charge informed her that the school did not allow students caught cheating to take part in exams.
She, however, failed to show the journalists the guidelines.
"We've to check our policy. Right now it is not here [at my office],” she said, adding the probe committee would look into all those issues.
Contacted, Chairman of VNSC Governing Body Golam Ashraf Talukdar said they formed a committee to investigate the incident.
“If the morning shift-in-charge is found guilty, action will be taken against her. [It will also be taken] against the acting principal, if she is found guilty,” he added.
Despite repeated attempts, The Daily Star could not reach Zinat for comments.
A SADDENENED NAHID
Earlier around 11:30am, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid visited the school and talked to the students, teachers and guardians.
He condemned the incident and said action would be taken against anyone found guilty.
"How much pain, how much insult does it take for a student to choose the path of suicide?” he asked.
An act of suicide reflects the environment of an institute, he said, adding, "No teacher can mete out psychological or physical torture as punishment. It is considered as offense," he said.
The ministry's three-member probe committee would be headed by Prof Yusuf, director of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, he said.
Holding the certificates of his daughter close to his chest, Dilip cried the entire time while talking to this correspondent.
"My daughter knew seven different languages and got an award from British Council as best book reader,” he said, adding Aritry had secured GPA-5 in her Primary Education Completion Examination and Junior School Certificate examinations in 2014 and 2017.
"I pleaded with them to give my daughter a second chance. Aritry even tried to hold the teachers' leg,” he said.
HIGH COURT ORDER
Yesterday, the HC bench of Justice FRM Nazmul Ahasan and Justice KM Kamrul Kader ordered to form a probe committee following a report published in a Bangla daily on the incident.
Issuing a suo moto order, the HC asked the committee to formulate a comprehensive national policy to prevent the repetition of such incidents and to submit another report before it in a month.