Protesting teachers ended their five-day hunger strike on Friday after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pledged to initiate them into the government’s Monthly Payment Order (MPO) system.
The teachers have been demonstrating outside the National Press Club in Dhaka since December 26 to press their demands for the regularisation of their jobs.
The protest then led to a stalemate in thousands of educational institutions across Bangladesh when the teachers and staff took it up another level by starting their fast-unto-death on December 31.
Their strike ended on Friday after Sajjadul Hassan, personal secretary to the prime minister, came to the Press Club and informed them of Hasina’s assurance that their demand will be met.
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One of the teachers lying in front of the National Press Club during the hunger strike on January 5, 2018 | Focus Bangla
“The prime minister has ordered me to deliver her message to you,” Hassan told the protesters. “She has urged you all to break your fast and return home.”
Golam Mahmudunnabi Dollar, the acting president of the Federation of Teachers and Employees of Non-MPO Educational Institutions, then declared an end to the strike.
He said: “The prime minister’s word has made us happy. We believed that she would listen to us. We are going home today.”
The prime minister acted after Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid informed her about the deteriorating situation, which had seen several fasting teachers taken to hospital in recent days.
After initially dismissing the strike, Nahid had softened his own tone towards the teachers but failed to pacify them. The protesters had demanded concrete action, claiming the government’s previous promises were not kept.
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A doctor checks the vitals of a non-MPO school teacher on the last day of their hunger strike in front of the National Press Club on January 5, 2018 | Focus Bangla
Being included in the MPO scheme guarantees a minimum monthly salary. Under MPO, teachers and staff of non-government schools, madrasas and technical institutes get their full basic salary from the government and lump sum amounts as allowances.
The teachers and staff have been carrying out their movement, which included sit-in protests and hunger strikes, for over 18 months. But nothing was allocated for their MPO enlistment in the budgets of 2016-17 and 2017-18 fiscal years.
Nearly 80,000 teachers and employees have been bearing the burden of work without pay in around 6,000 government-recognised institutions for a decade or more.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune