From retired educator to auto-rickshaw driver | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 16, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:34 AM, June 16, 2020

From retired educator to auto-rickshaw driver

A teacher’s story of survival amid pandemic

As a 65-year-old retired school teacher, Md Abul Kalam Azad was looking forward to a relatively comfortable ride into the horizon. While he wasn't expecting a life of grandeur and indulgence, he wished to see out his last days finally free from the grips of poverty.

But then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and now Azad has to work back into life like the previous 39 years did not even take place.

"As an assistant teacher in English, I joined Julikuri High School in Sarishabari upazila of Jamalpur in 1981. I taught there for 29 years, retiring in 2010," Azad said.

As luck would have it, the school became eligible for the Monthly Payment Order (MPO) after Azad's retirement. If it had happened before, he could've made slightly better salaries and a better retirement payday. Instead, after retiring, the school authorities gave him a paltry Tk 2,87,000.

"All of the money went into maintaining my family as I have no other property to live off ," Azad said.

Following retirement, Azad left his village in Sarishabari to come to Mymensingh city, with hopes of giving his five children better education and a better life. The family had been living at a rented house in Baghmara area.

His two daughters did their masters from Govt Ananda Mohan College in Mymensingh and now live with their own families. Among the three sons, one is a second-year student of Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University while the other two are honours first-year students at Govt Ananda Mohan College.

To support the family, Azad used to work as a house tutor. He earned some Tk 10,000 per month. This was sufficient to maintain the family, especially as his sons also tutored to carry their own educational expenses.

But then the Covid-19 hit and everything changed. All of the families financial support was gradually cutoff, and there was no one who would help them. After the Eid, he three sons tried their luck by moving to Dhaka, but was unable to find any.

The situation, in fact, turned so dire that Azad is now driving a battery-run rickshaw on the city streets, even at his age. The family had to leave their rented house and moved into a relative's house at Kewatkhali in the city.

When this correspondent contacted him on Friday noon, he was out trying to make a living.

"After paying the vehicle's rent, I can earn some Tk 200 per day. This is not bad, except that at this age, I cannot drive it every day," Azad said.

Informed about the state of the family, Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Mymensingh Sadar upazila Sheikh Hafizur Rahman Sajal visited their residence recently and helped the family with daily essentials.

The UNO also handed over a sewing machine so that the family can make some money with it. In addition, he told them that he'll try to get work for one of the daughters so that the family can see out the present crisis.

Praising the prompt initiative taken by the UNO, advocate Shibbir Ahmed Liton, secretary of Poribesh Rokhha O Unnyan Andolon Mymensingh unit, said such activities by government officials will surely inspire others to help people like Azad, who are struggling to survive amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Seeking blessings from all, Azad said he is in his last mission to support his sons' education so that they can lead a decent life and avoid the brunt of poverty he had to bear all his life.

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