Students skip class, protest | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 15, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 15, 2011

Viqarunnisa in Crisis

Students skip class, protest

Manju Ara given charge as principal goes on leave

An empty classroom of Viqarunnisa Noon School and College as students boycott class yesterday demanding dismissal of Principal Husne Ara Begum for her handling of a sexual assault scandal. Photo: Palash Khan

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Principal of Viqarunnisa Noon School and College Husne Ara Begum went on a three-month leave yesterday while many students left their classrooms and held protests on the campuses demanding her dismissal for her handling of a sexual assault scandal that rocked the prestigious institution.
Manju Ara Begum, an assistant professor of the institution, will be in charge during Husne Ara's absence, Dhaka Education Board Chairman Prof Fahima Khatun told The Daily Star.
Yesterday's changes in the school's administration is seen as the government's desperate move to defuse the crisis after a class X female student at its Bashundhara branch accused a Bangla teacher Porimol Joydhor of sexually abusing her. The incident, she alleged occurred on May 28, at a coaching centre Porimol ran at Badda.
Porimol has since then been arrested and sent to Dhaka Central Jail after a four-day remand. He confessed to the offence to a magistrate in Dhaka.
The anger against Porimol turned against the principal with a faction of the now-dissolved governing body of the institution and some teachers supporting the agitating students and their guardians.
The students, joined by a group of teachers, demonstrated on the school's main campus at Bailey Road yesterday leaving the classrooms empty.
The protesters, including lower grade students, waved placards and chanted slogans against Husne Ara instead of attending classes only days before the school is to hold half-yearly examinations for the school students, and pre-tests for the college section. The exams are due to begin on July 19. Some ex-students also joined the protests.
Leaflets were also distributed during the demonstrations in the name of "Sanghati Mancha for Viqarunnisa Noon School and College", and "Viqarunnisa Noon Student Forum". Some were seen writing slogans on posters.
As the students demonstrated on the campus many guardians stood outside, worried about the future of their children.
"My daughter is not coming to the school. I've come here to see what's happening," said a guardian of a class VII student. "Why should an incident affect the entire institution and affect the students?" he wondered whishing anonymity.
Similar protests took place on Azimpur and Bashundhara campuses. Viqarunnisa Noon School and College has nearly 12,000 students on its main campus and three branches. No class was held in the branches as well.
Dhaka Education Board Chairman Fahima Khatun explained the charge given to Manju Ara.
"Whenever a vacuum in this post occurs we are asked by the institution to put somebody in charge, and we have given the charge to Manju Ara Begum following the rule," she said. Manju Ara, a teacher of history, was chosen from a list of senior teachers.
Husne Ara told The Daily Star that she applied for a three-month leave and sent her application to the Dhaka Education Board chairman, education minister, and the deputy commissioner of Dhaka.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid yesterday said Husne Ara remains the lawful principal of Viqarunnisa Noon School and College.
Talking to reporters in his secretariat, he termed illegal the meeting of the governing body that had removed Husne Ara and appointed another senior teacher Ambia Khatun as the acting principal.
He said out of 11 members, 5 members of the governing body took the decision, although it needs at least approval of 6 members.
The governing body, which was dissolved on Wednesday, already expired its tenure and failed to hold an election on time, he said adding that it also failed to handle the situation at the school.
Regarding cutting of cakes on the main campus welcoming Ambia Khatun, Nahid said the cakes were cut amid mourning programmes [over the deaths in Mirsarai]. It makes it clear that some people tried to take advantage of the situation. "The matter must be looked into," he added.
The crisis at the school turned worse on Wednesday when a section of the governing body removed Husne Ara and appointed Ambia Khatun as the principal. Another faction and Husne Ara immediately denounced the decision terming it illegal.
Later, in the evening Dhaka Education Board dissolved the governing body and appointed an ad hoc committee headed by the Dhaka deputy commissioner.
The four-member ad hoc committee was fully formed yesterday. Mosharraf Hossain, a guardian and deputy secretary of the agriculture ministry, was made the parents' representative while Nasrin Akter, a teacher at the main branch, was made teachers' representative. Manju Ara Begum is the member secretary of the committee.
The education board called Ambia Khatun and senior teachers for a meeting yesterday morning and asked her to give a name of a teacher for the post of principal. Ambia returned and discussed the matter with senior teachers.
When asked, Ambia, before leaving for the board with the name, said she is no longer the principal of the institution.

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