Leaders of associations of assistant teachers of state-run primary schools called off their hunger strike on Monday evening, nearly three days after they started the movement at Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka demanding a wage hike.
But their call was rejected by a huge number of general teachers who expressed displeasure at Primary and Mass Education Minister Mostafizur Rahman’s unclear assurance of discussing their demand with the concerned ministry and departments at the soonest.
The leaders broke their fast with bread, juice and water given to them by the minister around 5:30pm, hours after a meeting with him at his Minto Road residence.
But after they asked the protesters gathered there to end the strike and go home, a frustrated large faction rejected their call, saying that would happen only after their demand – an end to salary discrimination between trained head teachers and trained assistant teachers – is officially met.
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Secretary Mohammad Asif-Uz-Zaman of the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, alogn with other officials, had accompanied the minister at the time.
However, later in the evening, after their leaders left, the disgruntled general teachers were also seen leaving the protest venue.
Around 3:30pm Monday, a 12-member delegation of teachers had called on the minister and briefed him about their demand.
Bangladesh Primary Teachers Society President Anisur Rahman said they decided to withdraw the strike temporarily after the minister promised them to solve the crisis soon.
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Primary school teachers on hunger strike sitting in front of the Central Shaheed Minar on December 25, 2017 | Focus Bangla
Another leader, Nasrin Sultana also urged the general teachers to return to their workplaces, but said they would resume their movement if their demand is not met.
Talking to reporters, Bangladesh Government Primary School Assistant Teachers Association President Shamsuddin Masud added: “Those who are still protesting are being emotional. We hope they will understand the situation.”
Minister Mostafizur had told the teachers that their demand would only be met if it was proved logical, prompting the protesters to express anger.
Many of them started chanting slogans and vowed to continue their hunger strike, which started on Saturday morning under the banner of Primary Assistant Teachers Grand Alliance with hundreds of teachers joining in.
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The trained assistant teachers are urging the government to upgrade their salary scale to 11th grade from 14th, putting them right under the head teachers with the same training, who get paid as per the 10th wage grade.
Many from the protesting faction told reporters on Monday that they have been receiving similar pledges since 2014, but none of them were followed through and the discrimination continued for three years.
They also said that the leaders of the associations betrayed them by calling off the strike imprudently. “This time, we will end our strike only after the prime minister or the education minister gives us a permanent solution,” they said.
The disagreement between the teachers took even a bigger shape at the Shaheed Minar premises after the minister and other government officials left.
Over the past three days, at least 60 teachers had fallen sick as their physical condition deteriorated during their hunger strike. Several of them were also hospitalised.