With a thin blanket tucked in, Mohammad Ismail was lying on the road in front of Jatiya Press Club yesterday afternoon amid icy wind.
It was the fourth day the teacher of an ebtedai madrasa in Bogra stayed there to press for one demand -- nationalisation of the registered madrasas.
“Four days have passed by, no one from the government came to us... But we will not return home without realising our demand. We'll die on the road if needed,” he said.
The indefinite hunger strike of the madrasa teachers rolled onto the fourth day yesterday.
A few hundred teachers under the banner of “Bangladesh Swatantra Ebtedai Madrasa Shikkhak Samity” started the strike on Tuesday, demanding that the government nationalise the ebtedai madrasas that teach students from class I to V.
Earlier, they staged a sit-in for eight consecutive days at the same place.
At least 108 teachers fell ill yesterday and nine are now receiving treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Qazi Ruhul Amin Chowdhury, president of the organisation leading the demonstration, told The Daily Star last night.
“It seems that the government does not treat us as teachers. We have been remaining on the street for the last 12 days, but no one from the government could spare time to meet us. It is so unfortunate,” he said.
“But we will not stop until we get an announcement from the prime minister about realising our demand,” Ruhul added.
This correspondent found the teachers lying on the street yesterday afternoon with some of them being given intravenous saline drip. Some female madrasa teachers brought their children along with them.
There are around 48,000 teachers of around 10,000 madrasas who are not getting any pay from the government, many of them for 34 years since the institutions got registered under the Madrasa Education Board in 1984.
In 1994, some 6,776 teachers of 1,519 madrasas started getting Tk 500 as allowances for each teacher through a government circular.
Later in 2013, the government elevated the amount of those teachers to Tk 1,000. In 2016-17 fiscal year, the government increased the allowances of headteachers to Tk 2,500 and assistant headteachers to Tk 2,300 from Tk 1,000.
But the rest of the teachers have not been paid any allowance whatsoever from the government since 1984, said the teachers.
Meanwhile, teachers of MPO-enlisted secondary institutions continued their sit-in for the third consecutive day in front of Jatiya Press Club.
Under the banner of “Besharkari Shikhkha Jatiyakaran Liaison Forum”, a platform of five teachers' organisations, they started the demonstration on January 10 demanding nationalisation of private education.
The leaders said they will go for a hunger strike from tomorrow if they did not get any assurance from the government about meeting their demand by today.