Different organisations of teachers have been on the streets for several months pressing for implementation of the demand to nationalise education. We remember the retired education secretary, Nazrul Islam Khan, once happened to meet the Prime Minister who wanted to know the number of schools, colleges and madrasas run in the private sector and how much additional money could be required to nationalise these privately-run institutions. The outgoing secretary informed the Prime Minister that it would require an additional amount of Tk 10 billion (1,000 crore) to nationalise the thirty thousand schools, colleges and madrasas run privately in the country. Of course, many of these institutions enjoy the MPO (Monthly Payment Order) system of the state. This news appeared in an online news portal where the outgoing secretary said that the Prime Minister showed her interest in nationalising these institutions but it was followed by some adverse comments regarding nationalisation made by two influential minsters. That has added confusion to this issue.
We can learn the plight of non-government teachers and how they were treated by the state, if we just look a little bit back. In the eighties and nineties the hundred per cent salary of the non-government teachers and staff got more importance than nationalising the privately-run educational institutions as it was a matter of their existence as human beings satisfying the fundamental needs. In 1980 the non-government teachers were first enlisted under the national pay scale during the reign of Ziaur Rahman and since then teachers had been paid fifty per cent of their salaries every three months under the MPO system. The Ershad government (1982-1990) increased it to seventy per cent and the Khaleda Zia government further increased it to eighty per cent. The government led by Hasina in her first tenure (1996-2001) further increased it to ninety per cent and it became hundred per cent during the second tenure of Khaleda Zia's government (2001-2006). But this did not happen automatically. The teachers had to stage a lot of agitations. The non-government teachers at the secondary level started with only Tk 30 and non-government college teachers only Tk 50 per month as government benefits. This figure utterly shows how much neglected our education sector has been and how the government has treated this most productive sector of the country.
Non-government education covers the significant portion of our entire educational field, though contribution from this field is many times higher than government-run educational institutions. We have only 317 government schools (it may be 335 including newly-declared 18 schools) and more than six hundred government colleges. Only two per cent educational institutions are run fully by the state, though it is the responsibility of the state to give education to all the citizens. There is a serious discrimination in the policy on education. The government takes the responsibility of only 317 schools fully. Doesn't it show the hollowness of our education system? What about the rest of the students and teachers? It also says that the state gives importance to education through lip service. Of course, today the situation of privately-run institutions does not prove extremely deplorable as was two decades ago, but it is the result of many movements and struggles of teachers for long.
When this field will be nationalised, it will see a sea of change in terms of quality, standard, teacher recruitment and uniformity. Today, the teachers of government schools and colleges enjoy not only secure jobs but also they are financially solvent and enjoy higher social status. But the teachers of non-government schools and colleges are deprived of these facilities despite having the same educational qualification and quality. That creates a serious imbalance and non-uniformity in the field of teaching. But this sector produces the future and deserving citizens of the country. The more well-equipped this sector will be, the stronger future leaders we can produce from our educational institutions. Hence full state patronisation is a must to fulfil that dream.
Recruitment of teachers in the non-government schools, colleges and madrasas is in a deplorable condition as it is mostly done by the committees concerned which comprise non-professional people and they are politically motivated and influenced, which influences quality teaching. In government schools and colleges the recruitment procedure is not fully leak-proof, it is somewhat reasonable. To ensure quality of education the nationalisation of education is a must.
When non-government teachers have been deprived of the due state facilities which are enjoyed by the government teachers, it means we deliberately commit this mistake. We know the financial condition of the state which is sometimes stands as a barrier to nationalising education. Things actually go otherwise. The teacher leaders have said that the government does not need extra money from the state coffer to nationalise the existing non-government schools and colleges. It is not unknown to us that many state-run organisations and bodies witness heavy losses, which are met from the state coffer and the said amount is collected from the citizens, whereas education is the most vital element of the country. Still we always show this excuse that money is a great concern when it comes to nationalising education of the country.
It is heard that the government plans to nationalise non-government schools, colleges and madrasas step by step and better institutions located mostly in upazila headquarters will be nationalised first. This practice does not prove sound. Rural educational institutions are poverty-stricken. The infrastructure of these institutions is not up to the mark. This state hampers the usual teaching and learning at these institutions. The financial condition of the rural guardians is still near the poverty line with some exceptions. Quality teachers are also not available in these institutions as better performing teachers work either in cities or in suburban education institutions. All these factors deprive the rural students of receiving good education and enjoyable teaching and learning. But it is their right to enjoy from the state. So, it is recommended that nationalisation of schools, colleges and madrasas must be started from rural areas, if it is done step by step. But it is far better to nationalise all the institutions at a time which will remove the existing non-uniformity and discrimination lying in this sector. The sooner we can do it, the better for the nation.
Masum Billah works as an education specialist for the BRAC Education Programme.
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