In the name of community involvement and strengthening democratic process, a tradition has developed in the country to involve the local public representatives in running the non-government educational institutions. Before the introduction of this tradition, government officials played the role of chairmen of non-government educational institutions in the 1980s. Committees of degree level colleges and madrasahs saw the Deputy Commissioners as their chairmen and secondary and higher secondary level school, college and madrasahs found the UNOs as the chairmen. Of course, they represented the DCs. Because of this arrangement the direct political interference and influences were not discerned then.
In the 1990s, after the fall of Ershad regime, ministerial form of government was re-established in the country and the period witnessed political individuals as the chairmen of non-government educational institutions. The local MPs were made the chairmen of all kinds of educational institutions (school, college and madrasah). These MPs were not only MPs; they were state ministers, deputy-ministers, whips, advisers and chairmen of parliamentary standing committees. According to the advice of these MPs, state ministers, deputy ministers and whips selected members for governing bodies and also the representatives from the Ministry of Education, National University, Directorate General, Education and Education Boards who were political persons. This trend dominated the whole period of the 1980s. Besides, the election of committee members through direct vote of guardians was also influenced by them to accrue direct political benefit for the party. Thus, the educational institutions became hostage to the influence and power of the party in power. The principal objective to disseminate learning and teaching to build up a wealthy nation through the preparation of the future citizens was thrown into the dustbin. The committee members remained busy with earning money through employment business, admission business, buying and selling institutional properties and the similar tasks. The result is the inclusion of undeserving people in the field of education and the disappearance of real teaching learning environment in the educational institutions as the members and chairmen had little or no interest in education. Their purpose and mission was different.
When the caretaker government came to power in 2007, serious irregularities and corruption of non-government school, college and madrasah committee's surfaced nakedly and its serous negative impact drew the attention of the people concerned and general mass as well. During the four party alliance government, one MP was the chairman of even thirty to forty educational institutions. How abnormal the situation was! Not only MPs, one individual was made the chairman of dozens of institutions only on political consideration. As a result, endless irregularities, mismanagement and corruption engulfed the educational institutions which were under their supervision. Understanding the magnanimity of the situation, the caretaker government dissolved the committees and cancelled the employments made only on political grounds and the undeserving people's employment. The government formed new committees with non-political people and the government officials were made the chairmen of the educational institutions.
When grand alliance came to power, they followed the same footprint of the previous alliance and the endless harm continued its course in the non-government educational institutions. It is to be noted that 97 per cent secondary educational intuitions are non-government. It means a big field for making business for them. Of course, very recent time thing has been made a little bit restricted but with no positive result. Now, one MP cannot be the chairman of more than four institutions. But, in his /her constituency selected political people can be the chairmen of other institutions. It means all the institutions must run under hisher guidance and political party's supremacy will region in his/her constituency.
Education is a matter which hardly receives importance from the people who have been involved in the non-government educational intuitions. Commercial aspects and political supremacy prevailed in this field. One teacher had to give about eight lakh taka to get employment in a secondary school or madrasah. It clearly says that the moneyed people would get employment as teachers and the educated ones will be thrown off this field. Its ultimate and long-time effect the nation has already started to taste. So, very recently the government has decided to lessen the power of the managing committee to recruit teachers. Teachers would be recruitment by NTRCA (Non-government Teachers Registration Certification Authority) through written and viva-voce which is undoubtedly is laudable step. School committees will just make the appointment letters but the selection process to be done by NTRCA. We request the Education Minister to further strengthen this process so that educational fields must be occupied by really devoted teachers and educators.
Every year a national meeting takes place where the Deputy Commissioners of all the districts gather with the field level information and share the issues with the ministers concerned and with the Prime Minister herself. We find in the newspapers that every year they raise the issue of controlling non-government educational institutions by political people and its negative impact on the institutions and on education system. They also try to bring the issue of quality education to the fore as many of them had been bright students in their student life. Hence, they understand the harm caused by the inclusion of political people in school affairs. But the thing hardly receives importance from the relevant authorities. Most probably the idea goes behind it that the public representatives must have close links with and controlling authorities over the institutions to strengthen the democracy. But in reality, it undermines the very spirit of democracy. It creates some negative and bad examples such as undeserving people can be teachers, power not quality influences teaching-learning situation which actually goes against democracy as democracy is for the real wellbeing of the people and country.
It is learned and uttered umpteen times that the administration has also been politicized seriously. Even then, we advocate that the administrators (UNOs and DCs) should be the chairmen of educational institutions instead of MPs or state ministers or local political leaders. We want to see that the MPs remain busy with making the law of the country, not in controlling the local tenders and supporting the musclemen in educational intuitions. In the UK where the democracy shines, legislators have no functions with the local educational intuitions. They remain intact as they know education must not be handled, dealt with or controlled by members of parliament. They have other important duties to contribute to the nation.
Masum Billah works in BRAC Education Programme as a specialist and writes regularly on various national and international issues. Email: [email protected]