Students of secondary level are being seriously affected as several lakh teachers of non-government institutions across the country have gone on an indefinite strike since second week of this month to press home their demands.
Different associations of around 5 lakh teachers and employees of more than 30,000 schools, colleges and madrasas listed under the Monthly Pay Order (MPO) are agitating for nationalisation of their jobs as well as institutions.
The teachers' movement, intensified by the announcement of nationalisation of primary schools and apparently unsatisfying house rent allowance hike, has left the students and guardians in grave concern as classroom activities in these institutions have come to an absolute halt.
The strike also casts a shadow over timely holding of the SSC examinations scheduled to begin in February as it is not clear yet whether the striking teachers would take part or boycott the exams.
The education sector has recently experienced waves of strikes from the teaching staff, especially at primary and secondary levels, in which students are the worst victims. Only recently the teachers of non-MPO listed institutions have suspended their indefinite strike for three months upon government assurance.
The institutions in the capital, however, are not affected by these strikes as the leaders of the teachers' organisations don't enjoy much influence there.
Both the pro-government and pro-opposition teachers' associations are now waging movements simultaneously with almost similar demands. The pro-ruling party teachers' organisations demand nationalisation of the entire education system, while the BNP-backed organisations mainly want nationalisation of their jobs.
The teachers' movement apparently gained a thrust after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced nationalisation of 26,193 non-government primary schools on January 9.
To ease the situation, the government on Tuesday announced house rent and medical allowances hike for the agitating teachers and employees. But every association of the teachers rejected the hike outright terming it "unrealistic and insignificant".
Bangladesh Shikkhak Karmachari Oikya Parishad, one of the biggest platforms of ruling Awami League-backed five organisations of teachers and employees, has been observing the strike since January 12 to press home their 17-point demands. Their demands include nationalisation of education system, elimination of allowance discrimination, providing full festival allowances, implementation of National Education Policy, among others.
"If the government nationalised the entire education system, all the existing discrimination would disappear," said Ranjit Kumar Saha, coordinator of the platform.
Although the teachers of the non-government institutions teach most of the secondary students, they are deprived in terms of salary and other benefits, said Ranjit, also general secretary of Bangladesh Shikkakh Samity.
"If the government took over the secondary education like the primary level, differences in the quality of education between the government and the non-government institutions would diminish," he said, adding they would decide about taking part in the upcoming SSC examinations after discussing with other organisations.
Echoing similar views, Principal Shahjahan Alam Shaju, one of the conveners of the platform, said they would continue with their movement until the government meets their demands.
Another ruling party-backed teachers' organisation National Front of Teachers and Employees (NFTE) is also pressing for similar demands. The NFTE gave an ultimatum to the government that ended on Sunday and it would soon declare their programme.
Mohammad Azizul Islam, convener of NFTE, said nationalisation of jobs would only benefit the teachers, not the institutions. "Since the government is giving cent percent salary and other facilities, it can nationalise the entire system by providing equal facilities to all," he observed.
"It would not require a huge amount of money. The government can do it in phases within three fiscal years," he added.
Teachers of pro-opposition organisation Shikkhak Karmachari Oikya Jote are also enforcing a strike since January 10 demanding nationalisation of their jobs.
This organisation started a non-stop sit-in in front of the Jatiya Press Club yesterday to press home their demand.
"Our members are not taking classes. Situation will decide whether we will take part in the SSC examinations or not," said Selim Bhuiyan, chairman of the organisation.
Another association of teachers of 7,000 non-MPO schools and colleges called an indefinite strike on January 7 for the MPO facilities but suspended it for three months following an assurance from the education minister.
Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid yesterday said the demands of nationalisation came following the government's move to nationalise primary education.
"Nationalisation of primary education was the government's obligation, but no such reality to nationalise secondary education has been seen yet," he added.