Wednesday, 17 August, 2022

Let's Unite to Stop Teachers' Humiliation!

Pranab Kumar Panday

Let's Unite to Stop Teachers' Humiliation!
Pranab Kumar Panday

Education is the backbone of a nation. Teachers are considered the artisans of nation-building. Teaching is such a great profession that people engaged in the profession build leadership for future generations. Those who are young today will lead the country in the future. Therefore, teachers play an important role in nation-building. However, attempts have been made to make teaching professions controversial in recent times.

The three most recent incidents have been widely discussed on social, print, and electronic media. The first incident occurred with Swapan Kumar Biswas, acting principal of Mirzapur United College in Narail Sadar Upazila. In the name of rescuing from public anger, the police took the college principal in a car wearing a garland of shoes. That teacher himself did not know what his crime was. A group of people accused him of favoring a student over his social media post.

Without any investigation of the allegations, a teacher has been stigmatized by putting a shoelace on his shoulder only in the face of unreasonable demands of some people. Bangladesh Police has many outstanding achievements. But such misdeeds, led by their officers, have called into question the success of the police department. At the same time, the people engaged in the excellent teaching profession have been utterly insulted.

The second most heart breaking incident happened with Utpal Kumar Sarkar, a teacher at Haji Yunus Ali School and College in Savar, Dhaka. A student accused of eve-teasing beat him to death in broad daylight. During a cricket match on the college premises, the student randomly hit the teacher with a cricket stamp in front of everyone. The teacher later died due to internal bleeding. This is a very nasty incident. That teacher was the convener of that college's discipline and environment committee. He always tried to build the character of the students. It is learned through social media that the student had beaten the teacher as Utpal Kumar scolded him for harassing female students. It makes me wonder how a higher secondary school student can beat his teacher. What kind of society are we living in? Did Bangabandhu bring the independence of Bangladesh at the cost of his own life to see this social degradation? I am ashamed to claim myself as a teacher after witnessing such an incident with people engaged in teaching.

The third incident that has upset me is an attempt to grab the land of Arun Kumar Basak, an Emeritus Professor of Physics, Rajshahi University, and the pride of Bangladesh, by one of his neighbors. According to various social, print and electronic media reports, one of his neighbors has been trying to seize his wife's property since 2003. When Professor Basak lodged a complaint to the Rajshahi Development Authority, the organization ordered the demolition of the occupied facility after five years. The occupant then filed a case in the Rajshahi court and lost the case. He subsequently appealed against the verdict in the High Court. Here also he lost his case in the HC. The High Court directed the occupier to apologise to Professor Basak's wife. Following a High Court ruling, he demolished the installation but surrounded the property with steel pipes.

I have learned through newspaper reports that Professor Basak did not find any solution to this issue even after meeting various high-ups in Rajshahi. Even as a teacher at Rajshahi University, I did not know about this incident. Arun Sir is a reclusive man who will never share this with others. As far as I know, Professor Basak turned down a lucrative job offer in the UK after completing his PhD degree and returned to the country to engage himself in research. Professor Basak has published more than two hundred research articles in world-famous journals. If this happens to a person like him, what will happen to ordinary teachers? And this is one of the reasons why we are not able to stop the brain drain from Bangladesh.

I personally do not believe in the majority-minority theory. But coincidentally, all three incidents have happened with three minority teachers. Therefore, different corners have tried to label these incidents as minority torture. There might be some reasons to brand these incidents as minority torture. Still, I want to see each issue as a separate incident of teacher harassment; therefore, these incidents are torments on the teaching community. We also witnessed the humiliation of a school teacher Hridoy Mandal a few months back, where he was also the victim of manipulation by a group of people with deformed brains.

Bangabandhu used to show profound respect to teachers of all levels. He considered people working as the teaching professor as the nation's conscience. At present, the government of the country is run by Bangabandhu's daughter Sheikh Hasina who always looks at teachers differently. We have seen on various occasions how she shows respect to her teachers. She did not walk on the red carpet with her teacher at the book fair at Dhaka University. Therefore, the humiliation of teachers cannot be expected during her tenure.

There is no denying that social values have been degraded over time. Our country has become a digital Bangladesh. As the country has made significant progress, Bangladesh has become a role model of development worldwide. But the recent incidents of abuse of teachers prove that we are stepping backwards instead of v forward. Though it is not rational to generalize the situation of teachers based on just a few isolated incidents, the way teachers were respected in Bangladesh 20 years ago is not respected in the same way today. It is because the situation has now deteriorated drastically. Social degradation is not the only reason for this declining status of teachers. We, the teachers, have failed to unite our community due to a self-interest-driven mentality and involvement in partisan politics. Under the influence of party politics, teachers are divided into different factions and fail to reach a consensus to protect their interests. This has made it easier for other groups to take advantage by insulting and torturing the teachers.

If those involved in these incidents are punished quickly, then others will not have the courage to do such incidents with teachers. We have also seen teachers being humiliated on various occasions in the past. In some cases, the culprits are identified and punished, but in many cases, the offenders remain out of reach due to the pressures of the power holders. And since these culprits stay out of reach, others are motivated to cause such incidents.

Hon'ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Bangabandhu, keeps an eye on everything in the country. She has immense respect for teachers. We believe she will save the entire teaching community from such humiliation. Since teachers are considered the artisans of nation-building, everyone should show respect to people in teaching profession. Instead of viewing these incidents as isolated, these should be regarded as harassment of the teaching community, which is a disgrace to the entire country. We hope that the perpetrators involved in each incident will be found quickly and will be given exemplary punishment.


The author is a Professor in the

Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi