'We are the most overlooked of all'
Graduating in mathematics from a private college in Naogaon, Moklesar Rahman joined Shahpukuria High School in Manda of Naogaon in 2004.
Ever since he started the job, six days a week, he takes four to five classes of different grades on an average every day. But for the last 13 years, he has been doing this without any salary.
“Just imagine how it feels when you get no salary for the work you're doing for years! When my school got the government approval in 2010, I was told that the school would soon be enlisted in MPO and I would get salary. But that moment never came,” said a frustrated Moklesar.
The mathematics teacher of the school, which has 200 students, said it is the private tuitions on which he runs his five-member family amid hardships. He said four of his colleagues have already switched the job out of frustration.
“It's an inhumane life we are leading. There is a popular saying that teachers are the architect of building a nation, but we are the most overlooked of all in our country,” he said.
Moklesar is among the several hundreds of teachers, who are now continuing an indefinite sit-in for the second consecutive day in front of Jatiya Press Club in the capital, demanding inclusion of the approved educational institutions in the government's monthly pay order (MPO) facilities.
Under the banner of “Non-MPO Shikhya Pratishthan Shikhyak Karmachari Federation”, the teachers from across the country started the sit-in on Tuesday, vowing not to return to their workplaces until their one-point demand is met. Many of them spent Tuesday night under the open sky.
The agitation came two days after the assistant primary teachers called off their indefinite hunger strike after the primary education minister assured them of meeting their demands over upgrading their salary scale.
MPO is the government's share in the payroll of the 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 lump sum amount as other allowances through the MPO.
As per the rules, the educational institutions first come under MPO facilities and then the government enlists the teachers in the payroll.
Currently, more than four lakh teachers and employees of more than 26,340 secondary schools, colleges, madrasas and technical institutes are receiving MPO facilities.
According to the leaders of the federation, the number of non-MPO educational institutions is 5,242, where around 80,000 teachers are working without any pay, some for more than a decade.
This is because the institutions do not have the ability to pay the teachers while the government stopped bringing these institutions under its payroll for what they said due to a fund crunch.
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.
That year, the government listed 1,624 private secondary and higher secondary schools and colleges for MPO following a lot of hassle among the ruling party lawmakers.
Since then the teachers have been organising various protest programmes in and outside Dhaka, but their demand is yet to be fulfilled.
“We have suspended our previous movements on assurance of meeting our demands. But this time we will not go home until our demand is met,” said Golam Mahmudunnabi, president of the federation.
The non-MPO educational institutions run based on the rules the MPO-listed ones do and follow the same curriculum and syllabus.
Students get the certificate of same standard, he said, adding that as per rules, obtaining an academic approval from the government entitles an institution for MPO.
“But the irony is that these teachers are not getting any salaries,” he said.
Yesterday, the teachers were seen giving speeches on a makeshift dais. Some of them chanted slogans while some sang songs, pleading the government to meet their demand.
“We have been teaching our students round the year without any salary. We want a solution now,” said Shahidul Islam, head teacher of a high school in Shakhipur of Tangail.
Sources in the education ministry said new institutions are likely to be brought under the MPO scheme next year targeting the national elections. They also said they are scrutinising the necessity of MPO and how it can be given.