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New Scheme for the Teachers should be further Discussed

Mohshin  Habib

Mohshin Habib

Sat, 6 Jul 24

Since June 1st, Dhaka University and other public universities in the country have been observing a comprehensive strike by faculty members demanding the withdrawal of discriminatory 'Certainty Scheme' for public pension, related to inclusion in the Super Grade, independent pay. This strike is being carried out in response to the call of the Bangladesh University Teachers' Federation and the Teachers' Association of Public Universities. As a result, classes and exams at public universities across the country have been suspended since July 1st. Is not the new scheme, really, discriminatory and harmful for the teachers, working in public Universities? Let’s go through the facts.

Last year on August 17, four separate schemes—Progoti(progress), Suraksa(Security), Probash(expatriot), and Samata(Equality)—were launched by Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, aimed at establishing comprehensive public pensions. Progoti for private sector employers and employees, Samata or equality for people with fixed incomes, Probas, exclusively for expatriate Bangladeshis, and Security especially for day-laborers employed in government, semi-government, and autonomous institutions, which received appreciation to some extent. In a statement in 2023, the Honorable Prime Minister mentioned that those not covered under the prevailing pension arrangements would benefit from this welfare-oriented pension scheme.

The Bangladesh Awami League had promised to increase the financial benefits for teachers and create a separate pay structure because they understood that true development of education and society is not possible without enhancing the social status of teachers. Moreover, in the manifesto for change of the 9th National Parliament election, the Bangladesh Awami League emphasized education and human development, and in its 10th program, it pledged to establish a higher salary structure and a permanent pay commission for teachers. As a result, the National Education Policy was formulated in 2010, where it was promised to increase the financial benefits for teachers and develop separate pay structures for teachers at all levels to attract talented students to the teaching profession by ensuring they receive proper respect and benefits.

Through a Comprehensive Pension Scheme, Honorable Prime Minister aimed to actualize the dream to secure the citizens of all walks of lives, and free the vulnerable from exploitation and discrimination. However, the Ministry of Finance's Department of Finance issued a notice in last March introducing a new pension scheme named "Protyay Scheme". This scheme would be mandatory from July 2024 for newcomers in state-owned, autonomous, and self-governing institutions. However, all public university teachers were already covered under the existing pension scheme, thus rendering a new scheme unnecessary for them. The management of pension administration does not include representation of teachers, a significant hindrance to the current government's inclusive development agenda. Additionally, the national pension authority's presumed "Certainty Scheme" will likely subject university teachers to substantial discrimination.

However, we have observed that the teaching community in this country has repeatedly faced discrimination and deprivation. In 2015, the pay commission adopted a policy limiting teachers' promotions to a maximum of the third grade, leading to a movement by the teaching community, which resulted in the demand for promotion to the second and first grades being met. At that time, although there was a promise to promote university teachers to a super grade, it has yet to be implemented.

Such continuous discrimination and the current forced inclusion in the Universal Pension Scheme are in conflict with the electoral promises of the Honorable Prime Minister, the National Education Policy 2010, inclusive sustainable development, and the vision of a Smart Bangladesh.

According to the press release by the National Pension Authority on July 2, those teachers/officers-employees who are in service until June 30, 2024, will continue to receive all pension benefits as before. Therefore, having two different pension systems for teachers in the same university will create discrimination and the inclusion in the less beneficial Prottay scheme will discourage talented individuals from joining the teaching profession in universities.

In the existing pension scheme, no deductions are made from the salary, whereas, in the Prottay scheme, 10% will be deducted from the salary. Previously, a professor would receive a one-time gratuity of 8,073,000 BDT upon retirement, but under the current initiative, they will not receive this amount. Additionally, the previous system allowed for a 5% annual increment on the pension, which is not included in the new scheme. The new scheme also lacks provisions for monthly medical allowance, two festival allowances, and one Boishakhi allowance, among other benefits. Due to these reasons, there is concern that the teaching profession in universities may lose its appeal to talented individuals, prompting teachers across the country to undertake continuous programs of action.

So, from July 1, the teachers' movement is not just for the benefit of currently serving teachers but is a movement to protect the dignity of Bangladesh's education system. It is a movement to safeguard the autonomy to uphold the electoral promises of Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and to implement the National Education Policy.

I think the matter needs to be reassessed. To bring about such a significant change, careful consideration is required, and it is essential to consult with the relevant stakeholders. The Prime Minister is certainly a person who is supportive of teachers. There should be an open discussion with the teachers.

Writer is an author and journalist

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