Free books are not free

Neil Ray | Published: January 10, 2016 22:28:03 | Updated: October 22, 2017 00:59:29


Celebration of books knows no occasion. Yet the Ekushey Book Fair this nation  has been observing has few parallel. There are certainly better arranged book fairs where business of millions of dollars are signed but Ekushey has its spirit of a different kind so embedded in the essence of Bangalee nationalism. Well, this cannot be surpassed by anything else but yet there has been a recent addition of late in this country in the shape of free distribution of textbooks among school children all across the country. On its scale this too is exceptional in this part of the world. On the first day of each year, students gather at their schools to collect books free of cost. 
What a marvellous idea! It is a sight to be behold. Students taking a set of books for the class they have just been promoted to. The feeling is something extraordinary. New books have an enchanting smell only those who get their hands on them can experience. On scale, therefore, this qualifies to be the largest celebration of books in Bangladesh now. 
However, there are developments that dampen the enthusiasm of young learners, courtesy of teachers with an ulterior motive. According to a report carried in a Bangla contemporary, about 500 students of a school in Raiganj under Sirajganj had to return home frustrated without books. The reason: they refused to pay the money the teachers of the schools demanded. Those who received books had to pay Tk 450 for class-IX, Tk 500 for class VII and VIII. Books meant for distribution among 500 students have been stored in a room of the school. The teachers there also adopted different means to get back the old books from their students. 
Now what really prompted the headmaster and his colleagues to demand money for free books? Clearly, they have gone for personal gains. The money realised would be shared among the teachers. What they have however forgotten is that it is a commitment made by the government to supply books free of cost on the first day of the year. But the headmaster was adamant. He replied to a question in this regard that money is realised all over the country. So why not his school? 
Clearly here is a man who prefers to be blind to reality in the interest of his own gain. How can such people teach students when free books are used as a means to realising illegal money from students? Parents and guardians of students are angry at the illogical demand but they are helpless lest their wards are victimised in classes. 
This is however not the only case where such ploys are adopted to frustrate the government's sincere effort to reach books to all school students on the very first day of the year. Deploring alone will not suffice. Such rogue teachers need to be disciplined under laws. Either they will behave like teachers or they must be forced to quit the job. They have disqualified themselves to remain teachers. Unless stern action is taken, such incidents will continue to recur and malign a noble initiative by the government.       
 

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