After staging a sit-in for five consecutive days at the Jatiya Press Club, teachers and employees of non-MPO education institutions yesterday started their fast unto death demanding inclusion in the government's Monthly Pay Order (MPO).
The teachers, assembled from across the country, started the hunger strike around 9:30am through speeches and slogans sitting on the street and pavement in front of the press club.
Wearing white T-shirts with slogans inscribed on it, many of them demanded that the government fulfil their demand to save them from leading an inhuman life.
"We are teachers. We are bestowed with the duty to build our future generations. Should we be treated like this? Should we lie on the streets for our demands?" said Shahidul Islam, headteacher of a high school at Shakhipur in Tangail.
He has been waiting for more than 15 years for the moment to hear that the government enlisted his school under its MPO scheme.
"Years passed by and my wait only prolonged," he said. "We want to go home with good news this time," Shahidul added.
The teachers under the banner of "Non-MPO Shikhya Pratishthan Shikhyak Karmachari Federation" on Tuesday started their sit-in programme at the same place to press home their demand.
According to the leaders of the federation, the number of non-MPO education institutions is 5,242, where around 80,000 teachers are working without any pay, some for more than a decade.
This is because the schools do not have the ability to pay the teachers, while the government stopped enlisting the institutions for MPO due to "fund crisis".
The MPO is the government's share in the payroll of the non-government education institutions. Under the scheme, the government gives 100 percent basic to the teachers of non-government schools. The teachers also get a lump sum amount as other allowances from the MPO.
As per rules, an education institution first comes under the MPO facilities followed by its teachers getting enlisted in the government payroll.
After a suspension of six years by the then BNP-led alliance government, the Awami League-led government revived the MPO facility in 2010 as per its electoral pledge and enlisted 1,624 private secondary and higher secondary schools and colleges in the MPO scheme.
The rest of the non-MPO teachers have been staging various demonstrations for MPO facilities since then.
"We will continue our hunger strike until the government meets our demand. If death comes, we will embrace it. Because there is no meaning of living a life like this," Golam Mahmudunnabi, president of the federation, told The Daily Star around 9:00 last night.
The teachers were seen lying on polythene sheets and newspapers on the street with blankets and shawls under the open sky.
"Only 12 hours have gone by and some of my colleagues have become weak," said Golam Mahmudunnabi.
On Saturday, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid urged them to end their agitation and return home. Rejecting this call, they started their hunger strike.
Currently, more than four lakh teachers and employees of more than 26,340 secondary schools, colleges, madrasas, and technical institutes receive the MPO facilities.