The government is going to provide financial assistance to over two lakh non-government school and college teachers and staffers, who are outside the purview of the Monthly Pay Order (MPO) scheme, aiming to minimise their financial hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many non-MPO teachers and staffers have not received any salary since the government closed down all educational institutions on March 17 to stem the novel coronavirus contagion.
Considering their hardship, the education ministry sent a proposal to the Prime Minister's Office last month seeking an allocation for providing a one-time grant to the non-MPO teachers and staffers within June. The PMO forwarded the proposal to the finance ministry.
"The finance ministry has approved in principal the incentive proposal," Deputy Education Minister Mohibul Hassan Chowdhoury told The Daily Star.
Finance ministry officials said they are likely to give a one-time grant of Tk 5,000 to each non-MPO teacher and Tk 2,500 to each staffer.
A ministry official said, "Money will not be a problem. The money will be disbursed among teachers and staffers of educational institutions which remain outside the purview of the MPO facilities."
Those listed under MPO get 100 percent basic salary from the national exchequer. "But the process will be finalised only after the final approval by the Prime Minister's Office," the official added.
According to education ministry statistics, 151,325 teachers and 85,217 staffers of non-government schools, colleges, madrasas, and technical institutions are not covered under the MPO scheme.
For providing the financial assistance, the government will require around Tk 97 crore.
Top education ministry officials said they have prepared two alternative proposals. Under the first one, each non-MPO teacher would get a one-time grant of Tk 8,000 and each staffer Tk 4,000. The amounts would be Tk 5,000 and Tk 2,500 respectively under the second proposal.
INTERIM MECHANISM NOT ENOUGH
Binoy Bhushan Roy, general secretary of the Non-MPO Educational Institutions' Teachers and Employees Federation, and Nazrul Islam Rony, spokesperson of MPO Bhukto Shikkha Protisthan Jatiyakoron Liaison Forum, said teachers' backs were against the wall.
They said non-MPO teachers are making ends meet. They are usually ill-paid which is as low as Tk 4,000 a month. They give private tuition to enhance their earnings. Now with schools closed and students mostly staying at home, they lost both the means of earning.
Although the pandemic-induced general holiday ended on May 31, all educational institutions will remain closed until August 6.
However, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on April 27 said all educational institutions might stay closed until September if the coronavirus situation did not improve.
Authorities of non-government educational institutions argue that they could not pay the salaries of their employees as the tuition fees of students, the only source of income for a lot of institutions, could not be collected.
Only a few renowned schools in the capital could pay the salaries of their employees from school savings.
Rony, also the president of Bangladesh Teachers Association, said the non-MPO teachers were going through sufferings as they were not getting salaries.
The situation would be catastrophic for them if the educational institutions remain closed for long, he added.
Both the teacher leaders said an interim arrangement from the government to ease the teachers' sufferings was appreciable, but it would be not enough to end the sufferings.
They demanded binging all educational institutions, teachers, and staffers under the coverage of the MPO scheme.
State Minister Mohibul said the government would include new educational institutions in the MPO list once they fulfil the criteria.
The prime minister has so far announced 18 stimulus packages worth around Tk 1,01,117 crore, which is around 3.5 percent of Bangladesh's GDP, to offset the shock of Covid-19 pandemic on various sectors of the country.