MNA Editorial Desk: Education is said to be the backbone of a country. Hence, it is very important that the citizens are provided with proper education facility. Proper education will build the competency, excellence and potential of a person and that will turn him as an asset for the country rather than a burden. Education is also fundamental to the development and growth of a nation. A country needs to take steps to flourish the potential of human mind and to capitalise the potential of its citizens fully, and there is no effective way for doing so than education. Bangladesh is also no exception from that idea.
Immediately after achieving the independence in 1971, the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman highly emphasised educating the citizens to improve their life standard. It was because he realised that, without a proper education system, the nation cannot be self sufficient. But unfortunately in recent years, we are observing lots of turbulences in different areas of our educational system which is an omen — risking our prospect to move forward.
Recently, the quota reform protest has been the talk of the country as demonstration was staged by the students which began in April this year. Students are known to be the greatest power of our country as they led almost all the protests and demonstration even prior to our liberation war. Their contribution in our national politics is unforgettable. During their quota reform protest, they were demanding reduction in the current preserved quota which accumulates to be 56 per cent of the total posts in the public services.
With facilities in the public services being increased notably in the past few years by the government of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, it has become a very lucrative career option for the students. Increasing number of meritorious students is now opting for public services through the BCS exam. So, it has become an issue that more of these meritorious students now get the chance to have government jobs. But considering the fact that there are still several backward groups, quota is still required.
The main criticism of quota reserve is the 30 per cent freedom fighter quota which enables the children and grandchildren of the registered freedom fighters to get priority in the government jobs. The debate is if that facility should be extended up to the grandchildren of the freedom fighters. But considering the fact that, these freedom fighters were deprive for a long time from any facility after the brutal killing of Bangabandhu in 1975. Even before 1975, the freedom fighters along with their children were mostly from the low income group and could not actually get a good government job at that time. Hence, their lives are still moving in the neglected group and that justifies the quota facility for the freedom fighters.
Majority of the Bangladeshi people supported the liberation war and voted for Bangabandhu in 1970. Most of them could not participate in the liberation war directly but continuously supported the idea of Bangladesh’s independence. They still uphold the ideology of 1971. They along with many actual freedom fighters do not have any certificate and now a part of the huge general people. The government must listen to the majority of the people who holds the idea of national sovereignty. If they fail to associate with the mass, there is extreme risk of some reactive groups to divert the protest easily.
Hence it is required to reduce the quota reserved for them as every year it becomes difficult to fulfil this quota. Moreover, we cannot risk assign unfit candidates to the government services. Merit must be considered up to a point and then this quota facility should be served. This will require a total change in the public service recruitment.
Nevertheless, PM Hasina declared to remove all sorts of quota facility at a point. The protesters were happy though their actual demand was a reform. But they stopped their protests with the demand of quick publication of the gazette containing that declaration.
Even after three months, that did not happen leading the students return to the streets few days ago. But the law enforcement agencies as well as the ruling party’s student wing Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) acted very harsh this time and they started physically assaulting the protesting students.
With ongoing events relating to this protest, Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque told in a meeting that due to a prior order of the High Court, the quota preserved for the freedom fighters’ family cannot be altered. Later the PM also mentioned the same. Though they mentioned that rightfully, there is huge scope of conflicts with that statement. This is becoming a burning issue as, we must say, the problem is not being handled tactfully rather is being handled by force.
Quota reform protest has brought the students on the streets and is having long term impact on our education system. Conflict is rising between the government and the reformists due to the protest. Politicisation of this protest will also have negative impact on the higher education. Few students will lose all sorts of facilities despite being meritorious. Instability will prevail for a long time at the educational institutes especially at public universities. All these will work as a barrier for our students to move forward.
Other than the quota reform protest, another less hyped protest is ongoing for a long time — non-government teacher’s protest for inclusion in MPO (Monthly Pay Order). A group of teachers under the banner of Non-MPO Educational Institutions’ Teachers and Employees Federation are taking forward this protest. There are thousands of non-government schools and colleges in our country with so many teachers. With MPO facility, they will receive a major part of their salary from the government. Right now the teachers of non-MPO institutions suffer a lot as they are not paid regularly and often fail to receive any salary for months.
These teachers are involved in building the future of our country but they face tremendous trouble in running their own families. If their institutions are covered under MPO, part of their salary is at least ensured. With this demand they are on the streets for years. According to the Non-MPO Educational Institutions’ Teachers and Employees Federation, around 80,000 teachers of 5,000 non-government schools, colleges and technical institutions are now outside the purview of the MPO. The last time the government provided MPO benefits was to 1,624 institutions in 2010.
Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid repeatedly ensured the teachers that the government would provide MPO benefits to them. And they were somewhat convinced. But the teachers had to return to the streets as Finance Minister AMA Muhith in the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2018-19 did not make any specific declaration about their enlistment for the financial assistance, although prime minister Sheikh Hasina assured them of MPO inclusion in January this year. This negligence in the budget further ignited the teachers and they again started their protest including hunger strike. In this process of the protest for MPO enlistment, the greatest sufferers are the students.
These teachers have abandoned their students as they are fighting on the streets. Despite receiving the books on the very first day of the year, many students could not start their regular classes for months and they will lack behind. Most importantly, these students will have negative idea over education particularly the little ones. Hence, it is critically harming our prospect with possibilities of an incompetent future generation. It is pathetic that both the education ministry and the teachers seem pretty reluctant about the fact that, the students or the children are being harmed from this protest.
Along with these protests, we have seen several other protests in the area of education during the last few years like; protest of colleges for inclusion under Dhaka University, Apprentice Nurses’ protests, protest against increase of tuition fees at private universities etc. All those protests created huge impact at the educational institutions of our country and the government agencies reacted to manage.
Other than that, corruption in our education sector has also appeared as a plague which took our education system way back. Though corruption like; question paper leak phenomena was almost nil in the last HSC exam but that might not be the case in the upcoming exams. Overall, our education system is going through lot of challenges in recent times and ‘education’ is being the actual victim. Despite positive improvement in several human indices, we have dropped drastically in quality education index. Our higher educational institutes are constantly failing to meet the international standards.
To ensure the future of our nation, the education system must be saved. To do that, PM Hasina should really think about reforming the education ministry and related wings. The intellectuals and related professionals should prepare a proposal and submit it to the PM for implementation. Except early and careful efforts from all relevant authorities, we cannot secure our education system. And it is high time that we start the war to save education in Bangladesh.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC).