Dhaka, July 7 (UNB) – Shipra Rani Dey, a non-government primary school teacher, came to the capital three weeks ago from Noakhali’s Char Hatiya with her two-year-old son to take part in teachers’ demonstration demanding regulatisation of their jobs.
She has been working at a private primary school for the last 13 years and barely received any salary.
“I’m continuing the job without salary in the hope that it’ll be regularised someday. It’s very challenging for me as I’ve to run a six-member family. My husband is bed-ridden and I’m the only breadwinner,” she said.
But maintaining the family has become extremely difficult for her as she is caught in a debt trap and without a regular income, and the situation is likely to worsen further. “My own ordeal is forcing me to take part in the demonstration,” she said, as her toddler fidgeted.
An organisation of private primary school teachers has been spearheading the demonstration in front of the Jatiya Press Club for the last three weeks demanding that their schools be nationalised.
Female teachers like Shipra, who are participating in the demonstration, are suffering even more. “The lack of bathrooms is adding to our sufferings,” she said but vowed to continue the protest.
Mahbuba Begum, a protester from Patuakhali, echoed Shipra’s determination. “We’re continuing the demonstration braving the sun, rain, dust, mosquito, and constant noise. We can’t even eat or sleep properly. Many teachers have fallen sick,” she said.
“Our families are suffering. But we’ve no option other than continuing the protest until we’re heard. We want to go back to schools,” she said.
ASM Jafar Iqbal, organising secretary of the demonstrating teachers’ association, told UNB that they started staging sit-in on June 16 and went on a hunger strike on June 30. “We’ll continue our fast-unto-death programme until the government accedes to our demands,” he said.
Iqbal claimed that 4,159 private schools were left out when the government nationalised 26,193 schools, insisting that their institutions met the criteria for being included in the list. “It’s because we failed to provide information as we didn’t get them from the district and upazila officers,” he said.
Jafar said that they met State Minister for Primary and Mass Education Md Zakir Hossain on June 24 and got assurance about fulfillment of their demands. “We want the government to clarify its stance,” he said.
Md Mamunur Rashid Khokon, president of the association, said the government nationalised 26,193 primary schools among those established before May 9, 2012.
“We’re trying to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to have this issue solved. Our 18-day demonstration in 2018 didn’t yield any result. Now, we’re holding fast unto death from Wednesday,” he said, adding that 173 teachers had fallen sick during the demonstration.
SM Tariqul Islam, Assistant Secretary (Law) of Primary and Mass Education Ministry, told UNB that that he was unaware of the details.
“But apparently there’s no plan to nationalise any new private school right now,” he said.