Getting a balance in life is very important to find happiness. There is a common perception among many people that teaching is an easy job. Contrary to that, it is one of the most challenging professions on earth. No doubt, being a teacher has its own perks. A teacher still commands highest respect from society. Parents and students look up to teachers for guidance. However, teachers have stress-related issues too.
Full time school teachers work at least 40 hours per week. Many times, they carry home their unfinished workload. Even if teachers are going through a phase of turmoil at home, they need to look jovial in front of their students. Compared to the works school teachers put in, I am very sorry to say, the pay checks they receive weigh less than they deserve. Happy teachers will mean a happier nation.Teachers would not have to teach in coaching centres had they been paid more. The mushrooming of coaching centres also suggests that education has become a commodity. In the South Asian subcontinent, education is expensive and result-oriented. The more suggestions a teacher gives, the better valued is he or she among students, especially in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Unfortunately, guardians inspire their children to collect question-paper for acquiring better results. Ominously, the quality of education has gone down. For which we cannot blame our students. Teachers nowadays do not teach sincerely and regularly. They fail to generate interest among students. Guardians also fail to create an atmosphere of reading books and sharing knowledge among their children.
In our country, the industrial owners bear the costs of production and manufacturing. Without human labour, the owners’ goods would not have reached their consumers. Without the owners’ investments, our countries would not have done so well in the international market. Mohammad Abdullah Zaber, Deputy Managing Director, Zaber & Zubair Fabrics Ltd. said at the ‘Textile Youth Leadership Summit-2018’,
“India is following us in garments sector and we are weaving at China’s neck with our robust demand in garments sector. We are the second largest in RMG sector and it’s not very far that we become the highest exporter in the world”. In 1972, foreign currency reserve of Bangladesh was only 270 million, now it is about 33000 millions (Web accessed on 16 April, 2019 https://www.textiletoday.com.bd/trust-textile-rmg-sector-bright-future-bangladesh/).
Mr. Zaber is right. We have made a rapid progress in the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) sectors. Since the Rana Plaza disaster, there is a better working atmosphere in textile industries. Workers have better safety and security. But do they have better or lucrative salary-packages? It is natural that the price of daily commodities is going higher. Do textile workers have enough increments and reinforcements to deal with the demands of price-hikes?
In some of the working places, labourers do not receive their festive bonuses in due time. They remonstrate but sometimes to no avail. Getting salary and festive bonuses in due time is their fundamental right. Why do they have to protest? Why do they have to rely on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for saving workers from their scrapes? Do not Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association (BGMEA) have anything to do with that?The capitalistic market quantifies human values with guineas. Capitalism knows how to turn humans into commodities. We have become objects; we have lost our voice; we have transformed abnormality into normality.
Germany has the lowest work-life balance in the world. On average, Germans work 26 hours every week. On the other hand, Mexicans work 43 hours on a daily basis. They are thought to have the least work-life balance in the world. On Bangladesh, Tim Worstall writes,
Section 201 of the Bangladesh Labour Law says that the working week should not exceed 48 hours, in exceptional circumstances 60 hours. Yet we have 62 per cent of workers in the RMG sector working 12 and more hours a day (Dhaka Tribune, 13 October 2018).
It shows that our life-work balance is not something to feel proud of. Industries breach regulations. Workers’ rights are not given enough attention. Labourers suffer domestically, professionally and financially.
I have talked to some salespeople from local production houses. They work six days a week. Their working hours are almost 72 hours. They start at nine in the morning and end their work 12 hours later. Many of them are afraid of being married. They feel that they will not be able to give time to their family members.
If a person has no work-life balance, he or she will have a reduced productivity rate. I am not saying that we should stop working. Money is important. It is not more important than mental health. Many of these production houses are earning money by making people depressed. Trade union leaders raise general workers’ demands. However, they strike secret deals with owners. As a result, they increase their own coffers. Looking after others goes out of their window.
Japan has a dwindling population. They have lost interest in procreation. The lack of young generation is the cause of Japan’s obsession with work. In some schools in Japan, the number of students is less than the number of teachers. Many schools are being shut down. In the long run, this downward spiral is going to affect their education system.
Teaching is not a profession, people say. It is not a job, they say. It is a passion. I agree. We have come here for working independently. Fortunately or unfortunately, there is no fixed working hour. We work 24/7.
We learn to educate and educate to learn. Without research papers, there is no promotion. Without promotion, there is no increment. Without increment, teachers’ families suffer. Luckily, the present day tertiary level teachers earn more than our predecessors. Many of them did not choose this profession for money. I believe, the present day teachers are more interested in making money. Thus, teaching has become a lucrative career.
Teachers are willing to take more stress for finding different avenues for earning money. We are doing research for the sake of promotion. Once we get promoted, we do not think about doing anything substantial for our nation. Research is supposed to make people more enlightened. Unfortunately, we are not really worried about it.
The fact remains that only a small proportion of academics are truly proficient and interested in research, despite many challenges. The rest are either miserable due to their publication ordeals (their supervisors simply did not train them well) or have no interest in research. (Syed Saad Andaleeb https://www.thedailystar.net/opinion/education/news/return-research-academias-new-challenge-1724419)
We are not doing enough quality research works that would be helpful for others. If all of us are busy in earning easy money, who will embark upon to light the new generations?
Teachers have a family too. They need to attend to them. How can we keep others happy if we do not find happiness? If I do not read much, my teaching will suffer. If I inculcate myself in reading books and writing research papers, there is a high probability that my wife will leave me. My wife is also a teacher. If we maintain no balance, our children will suffer. If we bring no money, our children will suffer. I always say to my students, “Without honest money, there is no honey”. The singers of the Swedish band ABBA sings,
“Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich man's world
Money, money, money
In the rich man's world
All the things I could do
If I had a little money
It's a rich man's world”
The grass is always greener on the other side! Are teachers really honest? Is teaching a noble profession? Now is the high time to do self-reflections. I wish, I could be a better teacher. I wish I could read more and write more. I wish I could do something meaningful for our society. I wish I could have less interest in money!
The writer is lecturer, department of English, Chittagong Independent University.