The education ministry does not have any plan to help the teachers of private schools right now
Golam Kibria never imagined his dream of staying a teacher his whole life would be shattered so cruelly.
The life of the teacher of Briten Residential Model School at Parbatipur upazila in Dinajpur was going well until the novel coronavirus broke out in the country and Kibria's school was closed – like all other educational institutions in the country – in March this year.
Kibria, along with his day labourer brother, soon started feeling the heat as the guardians stopped paying the monthly fees and the school authorities also stopped the salaries of the teachers and the staff.
Unable to find any other job, Kibria finally took up his brother's profession to feed his 10-member family.
Kibria's is not an isolated instance; many teachers of private schools – especially outside the capital – are changing their profession of passion to work as day labourers, street vendors, and even tea sellers to earn the living for their families.
According to an account of the teachers' organisation, at least 15 percent of private school teachers have left their profession while the rest have also been passing miserable days.
The government recently allocated Tk46.63 crore to the aid of 81,000 non-MPO (monthly pay order) teachers and 25,000 employees of different educational institutions. Each teacher will get Tk5,000 and each employee Tk2,500 – just once.
But the amount is too meagre, compared to the number of teaching staff, to be able to reduce their hardship, according to teachers.
The government also does not have any immediate plan for these professionals – over 10 lakh teachers and employees in around 65,000 kindergartens and 9,000 non-MPO institutions countrywide.
Professor Syed Golam Faruk, director general at the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, told The Business Standard that the education ministry has no more plans to help the private school teachers right now.
About 50 percent of these teachers will be forced to change their profession if the coronavirus lingers in Bangladesh, said Ikbal Bahar Chowdhury, president of the Bangladesh Kindergarten School and College Oikyo Parishad.
"Teachers are now living in a miserable poverty. But they can neither express themselves nor seek others' help," Ikbal said.
Teachers generally want a life of dignity. So, they are preferring to become day labourers or street vendors instead of seeking help from others, he added.
Teacher-turned-day labourer Golam Kibria said, "I had dreamt since my childhood of becoming an ideal teacher and serving the nation. My father, who was a poor farmer, inspired me, too. But now my dream has broken apart."
An absolute misfortune also befell Md Kaiser, who founded the Learning Point Cadet Academy at Nabiganj in Habiganj in 2014 by selling land and investing the money. Kaiser now sells tea on the footpath.
"I paid all my 13 teachers and employees until March. I have lost the capacity since April. We have decided to close down the institution," said a deeply saddened Kaiser.
"A few teachers of my school are now working as wage earners. It is really very pathetic what we are going through," he said.
Tamanna Islam, founder of the Popular International School at Adabar in Dhaka, now sells mangoes beside the street.
She said she cannot pay her teachers and she is also in misery as her husband too has no job now.
"I have closed my school and I do not know how I will reopen it. The virus has shattered my dream. Now, I am struggling to just survive," she told The Business Standard.
Mizanur Rahman Sarker, secretary general of the Bangladesh Kindergarten Association, said many kindergarten school owners are trying to sell their institutions.
"The education sector will face a bad situation after the pandemic as we will have lost many brilliant teachers," he said.
"We have applied to the prime minister and other ministries concerned for a special allocation but they are yet to respond," he added.