Two public universities on two different sides of the country are in a stalemate condition. Examinations and courses of students have been affected for almost two weeks as the teachers went on strike for various demands. But neither the university administration, the University Grants Commission (UGC) nor the education ministry have taken any effective steps to resolve the impasse.
Prothom Alo reports that the teachers of Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib University of Science and Technology in Jamalpur have been on strike for 13 days (until 15 November) demanding the resignation of the vice-chancellor.
They accused the vice-chancellor Syed Tahsin Ahmed of abusing power saying that he committed corruption and irregularities including giving jobs to his own son and children of some local leaders of ruling Awami League.
On the other hand, teachers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman University of Science and Technology in Gopalganj are on a strike for the seventh consecutive day to protest against the establishment of a hi-tech park on the campus and to demand revision of the guidelines issued by the UGC for teachers.
Bangamata Fazilatunnesa Mujib University vice chancellor's explanation about the demands of the teachers is not acceptable. He raised the question as to why they are protesting after accepting the 10-point demand of the teachers. But the vice-chancellor has not explained in what capacity he has appointed his son and the children of local Awami League leaders. The claim of the chairman of Melandah Upazila Parishad is very strange.
He said no one will get a job during Awami League government’s tenure without supporting the party. We beg to question, are the public universities rehabilitation centres for the pets of Awami League leaders? It has also been observed in other public universities that whoever becomes the vice-chancellor gives jobs to his children and relatives. If their pets are so qualified, why not find another job?
The reasons for the teachers' strike in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman University of Science and Technology are different. The teachers claim that if the hi-tech park is built within the university campus, the traffic of outsiders will increase. It will compromise the teaching and learning atmosphere required for an educational institution.
Their claim is not unreasonable. However, it is a matter of consideration how logical is the demand for revision of the UGC guidelines regarding the appointment and promotion of teachers.
This UGC directive is applicable to all universities. On Tuesday, UGC held a meeting with the vice-chancellors of public universities in this regard. However, no decision has been made as yet in this regard.
Not only these two public universities, many newer public universities are plagued with various problems and administrative mismanagement. In some places teachers go on strike while in many universities, class and examinations are stopped due to student strike. Moreover, many universities do not have the experienced teachers needed to impart quality education to students.
Can the country's higher education continue amid such crises? Awami League has established many public universities in the last 14 years after coming to power. But these universities do not have the experienced teachers and skilled officers needed to run them properly. Many departments do not have any faculty of professor rank. Departments are run by assistant professors or lecturers.
Naturally, those who graduate from these universities cannot compete in the job market. So what's the use of opening new institutions that cannot produce skilled workforce?
The impasse of Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib and Shiekh Mujibur Rahman universities should be resolved immediately and arrangements should be made for the students to return to the classroom. Teachers' movement cannot continue by stopping education.