Jessore School Teacher: Never late, absent in 31-year career

Every school day morning like clockwork, maths and science teacher Satyajit Biswas is to be seen on his bicycle, commuting the seven kilometres from his Kucholia village home in Jessore's Monirampur upazila to Dhopadi Secondary School. In the course of his 31-year career at the school, Satyajit has never arrived late. He has never taken sick leave. Bangladesh is blessed with many dedicated teachers, but few could match his attendance record.

“I never set out to achieve anything grand,” he says. “I never thought much about it at all, really. It's just that I know that I am the only science teacher at the school. If I take leave the students don't have anybody else to take their maths and science classes.”

Through bouts of sickness and the predictable interruption of family affairs, on days of natural calamity the father-of-two arrived at school on schedule. There were times when he had to wade through mud and chest-deep water to get there. “Sometimes I had to wear lungee and take off my shoes along the way,” he says.

To recall such hardship makes the teacher's eyes moist. Wiping tears he adds, “I have a heart-and-soul relation with my students. I feel uneasy if I don't get to see them.”

“One day I was suffering high fever,” he continues. “Still I was taking a mathematics class. But I was so weak I fell down, suddenly. My students had to carry me to the office room.”

In theory, such commitment is admirable. But it isn't so straightforward for a wife to accept that her new husband has to take classes on their wedding day.

“I did discuss it with her before our marriage,” Satyajit recalls, “but at first she was annoyed.  Still, it worked out alright because as per Hindu traditions our wedding was in the evening. I was able to take classes that day, before arriving at my in-law's home. From there I went to school again the next day, and returned to take my wife to our house.”

Gradually his wife, Arati Rani Biswas, became accustomed to her husband's ways. “Later she understood that I was doing a good thing,” Satyajit reflects. “Now she cooperates with me.”

Yet some of his other relatives are less convinced. Some have suggested that only a madman wouldn't take leave on his wedding day.

Nor did Satyajit apply for leave when his father passed away. “My father died early in the morning,” he recalls. “I was with the body until 8 a.m. Then I went to school for two classes before returning home for the cremation.”

In the course of his career Satyajit has progressed from his initial appointment as assistant teacher to his current role as assistant head teacher. By habit he reaches the school gate not less than half an hour before school starts.

“I want to establish our school as the best in the area,” says the teacher whose devotion to education has made him especially popular with colleagues, students and the community at large. Indeed several local organisations have recognised Satyajit as an ideal teacher.

“He doesn't only teach,” says the school's head teacher, Nazrul Islam. “Satyajit is also there for our students when they need advice on any topic, be it school or life-related.”

“Satyajit has shown unprecedented professionalism,” says Jessore's secondary education officer Aminul Islam Tuku. “Over such a long period he hasn't taken a single day in leave. He has attended school despite any personal difficulty. He is an ideal teacher whose example is worth emulating.”