Space For Rent

Space For Rent
Thursday, September 10, 2015, Bhadra 26, 1422 BS, Zilqad 25, 1436 Hijr

Mr Finance Minister, don't hurt sentiment of teachers
Anis Ahmed
Published :Thursday, 10 September, 2015,  Time : 11:29 AM  View Count : 80
The comments of Finance Minister AMA Muhith about the demand of the University teachers for a separate pay scale not only surprised the academics but dumb-faced the whole nation. The Minister called the teachers of the highest educational institutions of the country as uneducated, irrational and corrupt in a very rude, awkward and insulting way. Muhith said the members of Bangladesh Federation of University Teachers' Association (BFUTA) - representing 37 public universities - could make such a demand because of their lack of knowledge and as they are unaware of what provisions are there for them in the new national pay scale approved by the Cabinet on Monday.
Yes, the Minister may be partially right that the teachers are not aware of the benefits in the new pay structure but did he play his role to make the BFUTA aware of them? Surely he didn't. Then how would the teachers come to know? It was expected that Mr. Muhith and Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid would sit with the public university teachers to discuss their demand, vet their proposals and find a way to save the universities from work abstention by the protesting teachers. But the Ministers didn't feel like doing so.
Instead, the Finance Minister lambasted the BFUTA in very crude language. Maybe he was unconcerned and unaware of what repercussions it could have on the overall education sector. His remarks hurt the sentiments of the teachers, annoyed students and drew criticisms from guardians who all want a peaceful academic atmosphere in the public universities.
The BFUTA had a logical point to raise demand for a separate pay scale. They surely have the right to ask for it. But it was on the part of the government to find out the logic behind and handle it nicely without hurting the sentiments of the teacher - the artisans of future leaders of the country.
The Finance Minister castigated the university teachers when the Prime Minister had actually referred the BFUTA demand to a Cabinet sub-committee to examine and consider the demands. The Finance Minister, however, should have patience to hold back his sultry comments.
Reading his remarks in the media, anyone would feel that Mr. Muhith was talking about a group of menial workers or garment employees or someone of lesser category. But he ought to be wise enough to know the difference and act accordingly. He is known for making 'rubbish' comments in the past too, over the share market scam and other issues. But people generally took his utterances as coming from a slightly imbalanced over-grown politician. Now he has gone too far about the members of BFUTA, the apex body of public university teachers.
He said no proportion was maintained while promoting teachers and that now the universities have fewer lecturers than professors. If that was the case, the Minister should take account of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Education Ministry. Why he suddenly got so furious at BFUTA is not clear but it is certainly uncalled for.
A Minister of Mr. Muhith's stature should know his limit and where to sew his lips. The university teachers are the most revered creed in the country and are highly respected by their students. Together they can do or undo anything and cause upset. The universities, especially the Dhaka University, have a very glorious presence in the history of Bangladesh Liberation War - and despite many divisions in the student community, mostly driven by political differences, the students can still play catalyst to any social or political movement. The students and teachers, therefore, should be spared from any indecent, arrogant and demeaning remarks.
Mr. Muhith's remarks have been criticized by university teachers across the country. In an immediate protest, they abstained from work for a day (Tuesday) and threatened to go for harsher action unless the Finance Minister 'publicly tenders apology to the teachers.' The country's big campuses have been running peacefully - except for few exceptions - over the years with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina trying sincerely to accommodate demands of the teaching community and tame the unruly students including from her ruling Awami League.
But her noble gestures often tumble on hard rock due to careless, irresponsible and insensitive utterances by some Ministers like Mr. Muhith. Often his remarks are provocative, callous or 'rubbish,' a coy word the Minister likes very much to use every now and then.
Campus peace and contended teaching staffs are remarkable standards of democracy and good governance. The teachers belong to the highest category of citizens and the most enlightened segment of the society. So, it's the responsibility of all to give them due honour and protect their dignity. Mr. Muhith probably forgot that.
However, we hope and expect the Minister to re-track himself, sit with the BFUTA along with Education Minister Nahid and cool the situation immediately. Unless he finds enough reason to do so, the country may be in an uproar again and the first spark may come from the universities.
We would also expect Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to call and advise her Finance Minister to talk and act sensibly. Otherwise, enemies of the government and country will try to use the 'insult' on the university teachers to fish in the muddy waters.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
Published by the Editor on behalf of the Observer Ltd. from Globe Printers, 24/A, New Eskaton Road, Ramna, Dhaka. Editorial, News and Commercial Offices : Aziz Bhaban (2nd floor), 93, Motijheel C/A, Dhaka-1000. Phone :9586651-58. Fax: 9586659-60, Advertisemnet: 9513663, E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected].