No teacher should have to suffer such barbarity
We're alarmed by the recent series of attacks on teachers that saw at least two brutalised within the space of a week. First, there was a college principal in Narail Sadar Upazila who, on June 18, was forced to wear a garland of shoes for apparently trying to protect a student who ran into trouble after a Facebook post backing a controversial leader of India's ruling party. Then, on June 25, a teacher in Ashulia was beaten to death by a student apparently incensed by his disciplinary measures. Regardless of the circumstances of these events, the fact that such cruelty could be meted out to teachers, of all people, is deeply concerning.
There have been some disturbing revelations since the two events came to our notice. In Narail, for example, the shoe incident reportedly occurred right before the eyes of the police. Apparently, the deputy commissioner (DC) and superintendent of police (SP) were present on the scene. There were also announcements made via a microphone of the principal's impending humiliation, yet no one came forward to save him. In Ashulia, police have yet to apprehend the accused (although they did arrest his father). Equally distressingly, police tried to pass him off as a minor – by showing his age as 16 in the FIR – apparently to make him eligible for trial in a juvenile court. But school authorities have told The Daily Star that he is actually 19 years and six months old.
We fail to understand the role of the police in these incidents. Their failure to act properly and responsibly only makes the consequent experience more traumatic. Also, in Narail, it didn't help that both teacher and student had a minority religion in common, which further angered their majoritarian tormentors – a pattern of marginalisation that deserves scrutiny. But let's not lose sight of the bigger picture here: the crumbling of social values as well as increasing vulnerability of teachers who want to do their job with sincerity. Add to that the suffocating environment that prevails in most public universities and colleges thanks to their politicisation. In a statement condemning the attacks, the University Teachers' Network also decried this environment, saying that teachers are often being harassed and assaulted, which is partly to blame for the poor state of education in Bangladesh.
This is a bad sign for a country trying to develop a knowledge-based society to face the challenges of the future. We urge the authorities to help create an environment in which teachers are properly treated, protected, rewarded, and empowered to do their nation-building work. Teachers must be given all the safety they need, especially while on campus, and those who endanger it must be dealt with.