The guidelines were sent to all madrasas across the country on April 24, said BMEB officials
The recent murder of Nusrat Jahan Rafi in Feni has drawn the attention of all, as she was set on fire on April 6 at her madrasa, for reportedly refusing to withdraw a sexual harassment case filed against her principal.
According to media reports three madrasa students were killed and at least seven others, mainly children, were raped by their teachers since April 1. Fourteen madrasa teachers were arrested for their suspected involvement in the incidents.
Following the tragic death of Nusrat, the Bangladesh Madrasa Education Board (BMEB) has issued a set of guidelines to all madrasas across Bangladesh to protect female students and prevent sexual harassment.
The guidelines were sent to all madrasas across the country on April 24, said BMEB officials.
The guidelines aim to ensure the security of female students, their safe transportation to institutions, and to prevent sexual harassment at educational institutions.
The guidelines, in emergency notice format, were issued to the managing committees, principals, and superintendents of madrasas, as well as teachers, staff, students, guardians and all public and private madrasas under the Technical and Madrasah Education Division, Ministry of Education, so that all institutions under government monitoring are able to ensure cent percent safety and security for female students.
BMEB Chairman, Prof AKM Saif Ullah, told Dhaka Tribune they will strictly monitor implementation of the guidelines to ensure madrasas are following them.
Following the High Court order issued in 2009, the madrasa board had already ordered all institutions to form five-member anti-sexual harassment committees.
Dhaka Tribune has obtained a copy of the latest notice that includes 16-point instructions to madrasa authorities, six-point directives to female students, two-point directives to managing committees, and one point for guardians.
This correspondent had a conversation with madrasa authorities of 10 districts. Most of them said they received the recent notice but could not implement it due to the ongoing summer vacations.
Principal of Chowgacha Kamil Madrasa in Jessore district, Maulana Abdul Latif said he received the notice on April 29 from the Zila Shikkha office, and held a meeting with teachers and employees at his institution.
“The committee's work could not be officially started as the madrasa has already announced summer and Eid vacation.” he added.
Principal of Dhaligati Sundolpur Alim Madrasa (Manirampur Upazilla, Jessore), SMA Wadud, said they will conduct awareness programs in classes and arrange interaction sessions with guardians after Eid vacations.
He also said: “A 5-member committee has already been formed. The Vice-Principal of the madrasa was made convener and four teachers, including a female teacher, were made members.”
Superintendent of Sylhet South Surma Laui Dakhil Madrasa, Maulana Roonak Ahmad said they have received instructions from the Bangladesh Madrasa Education Board, for the formation of a sexual harassment committee to ensure the safety of girl students.
He also said they have formed a separate team with the help of female teachers to ensure the security of girl students. If any student has any problem, she will inform the team which will take instant action about the matter.
Principal Maulana Lutfur Rahman Humaidi of Sylhet Pathantula Jamiya Islamia Madrasa, said they have not yet received an official letter. However, he has read about the issue online.
“The most important point of the guidelines is that male teachers will not be allowed to call a female student alone to their rooms under any circumstances. A teacher, guardian, or another female student shall accompany the student on any official purpose,” said the BMEB Chairman.
The guidelines also say that a teacher is not allowed to make any personal contact with a female student under any circumstances.
If there is a complaint of sexual harassment or abuse against any teacher, the madrasa authority shall inform the managing committee, local administration, and law enforcement agencies.
Chairman of BMEB, Saif Ullah, said: “The incidents are tarnishing the image of madrasas, immediate action will be taken if allegations are made, and we will not show mercy for any crime or violence on madrasa premises.”
BMEB said the notice has been issued to ensure the security of female students and to set an example of punishment for any perpetrators.