While I was surfing different channels on television, my eyes became glued to a channel that was showing that a lawmaker was insulting a teacher. I could not keep quiet after beholding the brutality that was committed by the lawmaker with Shyamal Kanti Bhakta, the head teacher of Piyar Sattar Latif High School in Bandar area of Narayanganj. It is a great discomfiture for all of us who are working in the teaching profession. I am not sure whether the offenders would get punished or not. But, I want to think positively observing that a number of ministers, including the education minister, have expressed their grave disgruntlement over this incident. At the same time, the existing political culture of Bangladesh does not encourage me to become optimistic about the punishment of such incidence. For the sake of argument if we believe that those offenders would be punished, would it be possible for either the government or any other party to repay what Mr Bhakta has lost as an outcome of this incident. It is not possible to make any repayment.
Teachers are considered as the makers of a nation. From the very beginning of my studentship, I had a fascination to become a teacher at the university level. Even when I joined as a university teacher at the later part of 1990s, the teaching profession was highly regarded in the society. But, over the years, the fame and glory of the teaching profession have faded away. One may wonder why this happened. Of course, politics has played a significant role in this regard. Academicians have been divided into flag bearers of different political ideologies. Politics has become the primary concern for the majority of the academicians. There is a common perception among all who are in the academia that getting jobs, promotion, and different opportunities are provided only at political considerations. Overall, merit has been overshadowed by the culture of politics. My intention to bring this issue in the forefront of the discussion lies in the fact that we cannot stand behind any issue unitedly due to political division. Out divided role is allowing others to do whatever they wish to do against the teachers.
There is no scope for us to treat the issue of humiliation of Shyamal Kanti Bhakta as an isolated case. The whole teaching community, irrespective of universities, colleges and schools, should come forward demanding exemplary punishment for those who dared to commit such a deplorable incident. If the alleged teacher did something wrong, he could have been brought under punishment in due process of law. But, any person or group, whoever might be, does not have the right to abuse him in front of his students, whom he teaches, and the community who respects him very much.
I would request the education minter to form an independent probe committee to look into the matters from the ministry. From the television channels what I have noticed that the secondary education officer who remained present on the spot was quite convinced (may be in fear of being harassed by the MP) that Mr Bhakta committed something wrong. If the search committee works with fear, justice would not be done with the victim who has lost everything what he had earned in his teaching career.
This is the high time the government took the issue seriously. If it fails to punish the perpetrators, the whole nation would lose their trust on the government. The days are not very far when we would find that graduates are becoming disinterested to accept this noble profession as their career. What will happen then? If no action is taken against those offenders, what will our future generation learn from this incident? No teacher would receive due respect from his/her students. A culture would be established that nothing will happen if we humiliate our teachers. This will be suicidal for the country.
I am really optimistic observing the reaction of students, teachers and media persons on this issue in different social media. These are indicative of the fact that there are still some good persons in the society who are concerned about teaching community. What I feel is that we should remain united on this issue and demand for the punishment of those who remained involved in this incident.
It is not possible for us to repay what Mr Bhakta has lost. But, we could at least try to send him a message that we respect him and will remain beside him at any cost. By ensuring justice to the victim the government could also send a strong message to all concerned that they would show zero tolerance against any action that would humiliate the image of any teacher in the country. This would bring back confidence among the teaching communities. Let us see whether justice prevails or justice is denied.
Pranab Kumar Panday, PhD, is Professor at the Department of Public Administration, Rajshahi University