Rina Banu, a lecturer at Khalilur Rahman College, had two daughters and one son, and lived a comfortable life. However, things took a turn for the worse when her husband incurred a huge loss in his stock investment during the 2016 market crash.
They lost their savings and became financially insolvent. They found it difficult to make ends meet. But then the family suffered an even greater calamity when its lone breadwinner, Rina Banu, passed away the following year.
In October 2017, Rina's husband applied for a retirement benefit from the Non-government Educational Institution Teachers-Employees Retirement Benefit Board formed in 2002.
But two years later, there is still no news of the benefits being given.
This is not an isolated case. This is common with many people who have applied for benefits from the retirement board.
Non-government teachers and employees are supposed to get the benefit immediately after retirement. In case a person dies during service, their families should receive the benefit without delay.
But this does not happen in reality. There is no record of any beneficiary receiving retirement benefits on time.
Maruf Hossain, an official at the retirement benefit board, said it should take around three months to process a retirement benefit cheque.
"Unfortunately, now it takes about three years. In the past, teachers had to wait six to seven years to get the benefits," he told The Business Standard.
According to the board, 23,000 teachers and employees who retired in January 2017 have not yet received retirement benefits. Before 2009, the waiting time used to be almost double what it is now.
Senior officials at the board said they need at least Tk2,500 crore to clear the dues.
Rina's husband Enayet Karim told The Business Standard, "We used to depend on my wife's income. One of our two daughters and our son study at a private university, while the second daughter is at college. It has become very difficult for me to bear their educational expenses."
"I have gone to the retirement benefit board several times to request the officials to clear my wife's cheque, but to no avail," he said.
"It is very unfortunate that teachers or their families do not get their savings on time. We do not know when we will get it. My family is in a bad situation," he said.
Profullo Chandra Ray, an assistant teacher at Borhanuddin Kamil Madrasa in Bhola, retired in January 2017.
He said, "I served the nation for 25 years. Now I am suffering because I have hardly any money."
Sources at the board said nearly 1.15 lakh teachers and employees have applied for retirement benefits since 2009. The board has cleared 91,985 applications and paid out Tk3,855 crore so far.
The government cuts Tk720 crore every year from the salaries of teachers and employees, and deposits it in the retirement benefit board. But it needs over Tk960 crore to pay the benefits to around 1,000 retired employees yearly.
The board has sought Tk1,000 crore from the education ministry to meet shortfall.
Sharif Ahmed Sadi, member secretary of the board, told The Business Standard that they have been trying to clear the cases gradually. "We will be able to clear nearly half the pending applications if we get Tk1,000 crore."
Around five lakh teachers and employees work in about 28,000 non-government educational intuitions under the monthly pay order.
Mahbub Hossain, secretary (Secondary and Higher Education) of the education ministry, said, "We will forward the retirement benefit application to the finance ministry to try to get the fund."
The government formed the Welfare Trust for Teachers and Employees of Non-Government Educational Institutions in 1990, but its operation was stalled from 1991 to 1996. However, operations resumed in 1997.