12 January 2023

Teachers and education officials attended the wedding of the son of the State Minister of Primary and Mass Education, Md. Zakir Hossain, by declaring a holiday at 265 schools across 3 Upazilas in Kurigram district. Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has commented that the incident is disgraceful and demanded exemplary measures to hold the perpetrators to account.

Following the “invitation” from the state minister, teachers from the 265 schools had to pay BDT 500 each to gift the newlyweds a fridge, a washing machine, and a gold ring. TIB has called for investigations into why the education officials and school teachers felt compelled to attend a wedding by closing down schools. The anti-corruption organisation has said it is another dangerous example of degrading the education system by politicising it and abusing power.

As per media reports, all primary schools in Chilmari, Rowmari, and Charrajibpur Upazilas were on a “forced holiday” as education officials, headmasters, and teachers attended the state minister’s son’s wedding on 8 January 2023. TIB Executive Director Dr. Iftekharuzzaman has termed this a distasteful breach of conduct by the state minister and education officials and a shameful negligence of duties towards students by the teachers. He further said that this incident in Kurigram was a concerning example of how the country’s education system had long been held captive by politicisation and abuse of power. “The state minister, education officials, or teachers cannot shrug off their liablity,” said Dr. Iftekharuzzaman.

TIB has said that teachers have abused their authority over 3-days of reserved holidays under special circumstances and used it for attending a wedding reception. The government must clearly explain if there is any provision for using such special holidays for personal invitations. TIB ED said that closing so many schools and collecting BDT 500 from each teacher for gifts for the newlyweds would be impossible without the active participation and collusion of the District and Upazila education officials. “What is the explanation for the state minister’s family disgracefully receiving this gift? We have to know what the future of our education system will be if accountability is not ensured over this incident. For the sake of the students, the government must explain why this incident happened in the first place,” said Dr. Iftekharuzzaman.