Decentralization goes with the modern administration. The present decision of the government to decentralize the MPO (Monthly Pay Order) system deserves thanks. But this is not everything. Already corrupt MPO system and its entire gamut can further be corrupted when it will go near the local offices as the evils get the opportunity to influence it more than before. If there is ample remedy to rectify the leakage beforehand, only then this decentralization policy will give benefit to the stakeholders. MPO system hardly sees smooth and judicious way of functioning since its inception in 1981. Even then it has been a great step on the part of the government in general and the ministry of education in particular as it contributes a great deal to solving the financial problems of the non-government teachers. When teachers are to impart education with empty stomach, we never can expect any sort of good teaching though some sections say teachers will give education being imbued with honesty and sincerity. Actually it’s an impractical notion. In keeping with the education policy, the government has decided to decentralize the monthly pay order system, aiming at establishing transparency and making the process easier. If we ask why the MPO system stands far apart from transparency the Directorate General Office will say they are trying to do everything smoothly. But how long will they try to make it transparent? The whole DG office has become corrupt from head to foot which sometimes we find in the pages of newspapers. When it is the solemn duties and responsibilities of the department to produce honest and noble citizens, this place has sunk into unfathomable corruption. Our present Education Minister is undoubtedly an honest, sincere and ideal person. When he has failed to curb corruption of this building, when caretaker government failed to curb corruption of this building, then it can easily be deduced how unfathomable the corruption is reigning there.
Since the inception in 1981 the MPO establishment process has been done centrally and controlled by the education ministry, with logistic support by the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education. There are widespread allegations of corruption and harassment in the process and some people tried to curb it but surrendered at last. Now the question arises will the corruption be under control if the process is decentralized? In our country most of the education institutions were set up at the initiative of private individuals though the duty rests on the government. The government starts paying the salary and other benefits from the exchequer on fulfillment of certain conditions in the form of MPO only if anyone applies for it. As the whole matter relates money, the influential people of the society start poking their nose in the matter making it seriously vitiated.
At present starting from the respective institutions an MPO-aspirant needs to face at least ten stages in different offices and finally the education ministry grants his/her MPO. Besides, he/she needs to submit twenty-nine types of papers and documents to get an MPO. The harassment does not end here. Teachers from farthest corners of the country are to come to the DG office and wait day after day and month after month and are rewarded with harassment from the clerks and petty teacher -turned administrators. Professor Noman Ur Rashid, DG, DSHE said, “I am sure it will stop corruption and harassment in the MPO. DSHE is assigned to monitor the MPO affairs of all non-government secondary schools, madrasas and colleges across the country.” How the DG expects that decentralization of MPO will lessen the teacher harassment? To curb corruption it was decided to digitalize the MPO system. According to the digital system the applicant will have to submit online his/her application from the respective educational institutions and will no longer be required to see officials of district education officers or DSHE or even the ministry. It was hoped that the usual scene of MPs crowding the education ministry with recommendations for their candidates will hopefully vanish from the scene. Has the scene changed yet?
The available report says that there are 470 lakh teachers and employees of nearly 28000 non-government secondary schools, madrasas and colleges under MPO-list and the government needs to spend around Tk 5000 crore annually. Ninety-eight percent educational institutions of Bangladesh are non-government. This huge number shows how much important it is to bring pace in the MPO system. Our biggest portion of education depends on MPO system.
The newspapers report shows another picture that the non-government teachers- employees association is going to start a sit-in-demonstration. Association president Mohammad Hanif Ullah said their sit-in program will continue until the government meets their demand. Although the non-government educational institutions have fulfilled all conditions set by the government, no steps have yet been taken to bring them under MPO.Earlier on August 28 they had a 48-hour ultimatum to bring non-government teachers under MPO but the government did not pay heed to the demand.MPO deprived teachers of schools, madrasas and colleges are leading miserable life as they are not getting salaries and other faculties. Even many educational institutions did not get MPO even after 23 years of their registration. What is the explanation of the ministry of education and DG of these questions?
It is well worth pointing out that the teachers getting their financial support under MPO system should prove their merit through their performance. Since appointments in schools and colleges are not made purely on the basis of qualifications and teaching ability, a monitoring system should be in a place to evaluate their performance. But the whole system of MPO must be transparent and quick without any political involvement and pressure. It the ministry can ensure the MPO system remains free from these evils, only then the decentralization will definitely show a good fruit.
MASUM BILLAH: Program Manager, BRAC Education Program, Dhaka, Bangladesh.