The state of retirement benefits and welfare trust funds for teachers under the Monthly Pay Order (MPO) system paints a bleak picture of prolonged agony and uncertainty.
It seems as if their fate has been hanging in the balance for years, only to be further marred by a cruel twist of irony. Teachers have been left in the dark regarding the funds deducted from their MPO (government portion of salaries and allowances) each month. There was an initial hope that this crisis could be addressed by shifting the burden onto the shoulders of students.
Therefore, at the time of admission and form submission, a nominal fee of Tk 100 was collected from each student. Several years have passed, but the situation has not improved. Officials involved have now begun acknowledging that resolving this long-standing crisis will require a substantial allocation from the government.
It was initially proposed to collect Tk 220 crore annually from students spanning from class VI to Honours level to fund retirement benefits and welfare trusts.
However, to date, only Tk 13 crores have been collected from students of class V and XI. Efforts to collect funds from other classes have not yet commenced. Even if funds are collected from all classes, it is estimated that it will not exceed a quarter of the required Tk 200 crore. Consequently, there remains a substantial deficit of around Tk 400 crore solely for retirement benefits.
Meanwhile, teachers have expressed their dissatisfaction with the 10 per cent deduction from their MPO each month and the absence of transparency in the handling of these deductions.
Starting in 2022, students from the time of admission to class XI were required to contribute Tk 100 each year to the Teachers' Retirement Benefits and Welfare Trust. In 2023, this practice was extended, with students now paying Tk 100 during school admission. Plans were in place to collect Tk 175.93 crore annually by collecting Tk 100 taka from 1.76 crore students from VI to master's level. Additionally, it was anticipated that Tk 45 crore would be collected from 4.5 lakh students at the BA (pass), BA (honours), and master's level in SSC, HSC, and National University-affiliated colleges.
In addition to these student contributions, more than Tk 32 crore is deducted monthly from the MPO for the welfare trust of school and college teachers, and approximately Tk 49 crore is deducted for the retirement benefits board.
For the Madrasa and technical sector teachers, over Tk 32 crore is deducted each month for these two sectors. In total, teachers contribute Tk 1,356 crore annually to these sectors. The delay in disbursing these funds has understandably led to frustration among teachers.
Prof Nehal Ahmed, vice-chairman of the No-government Educational Institutions Teacher-Employee Retirement Facility Board and Welfare Trust and Director General of Secondary and Higher Education Directorate, cited financial constraints as the main reason for the delayed disbursement of funds to teachers.
To mitigate this crisis, they initiated the collection of funds from students, which are currently held in the educational institutions' accounts.
However, a shortfall still remains, and it is hoped that the government will allocate the necessary funds to resolve this pressing issue.
Principal Sharif Sadi, Member Secretary of the Retirement Facilities Board, explained that despite collecting a substantial sum each year in the retirement facilities sector, there is still a deficit of over 400 Tk crore. The original plan aimed to collect Tk 220 crore from students. Yet, the reality is that only around Tk 13 crore has been contributed by students of class VI and XI.
Thus, a bulk allocation from the government is urgently required to address this crisis, and it is hoped that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will take the necessary steps to rectify the situation.