Monipur High School and College in Dhaka’s Mirpur has plunged into fresh turmoil with an attempt to remove Acting Headmaster Zakir Hossain by the outgoing ad-hoc governing body accused of misappropriating funds.
Many parents stopped sending their children to the school after teachers demonstrating against the decision to relieve Zakir of his duties as acting headmaster came under violent attack last week, allegedly by the associates of Delwar Hossain, the head of the school committee.
The Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Dhaka, on Tuesday appointed the district’s Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Mominur Rahman the head of the ad-hoc governing body.
Alamgir Jamil is the teachers' representative in the committee while Zakia Shilpi will represent parents.
Previously, the board had removed Md Farhad Hossain as the principal in September 2022 claiming he held the post illegally for more than two years after the passing of his retirement age.
An education ministry investigation also found Farhad’s appointment by the governing body was illegal.
The Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education then appointed Zakir Hossain, the senior-most teacher, as acting headmaster.
But the ad-hoc governing body named Akhlaque Ahmed to the post on May 17, prompting the teachers to gather and demonstrate. Amid intense protests by the teachers, Akhlaque resigned and Zakir said he was still the headmaster.
The teachers returned to classes this week, but a tense, uneasy environment has persisted.
They said around 50 of the 833 teachers are entitled to the government’s Monthly Pay Order or MPO programme, but Delwar has not signed the necessary papers and the teachers under MPO could not make use of facilities from the programme.
The teachers were even forced to sign a paper requesting withdrawal of MPO facilities for them, they alleged.
They said they want the institution to run under the MPO programme, but local politicians are hindering the process to put it under a trust so that they can continue to reap financial benefits.
Parents have begun to question the dispute over control of the school. “Why are there so many dirty politics involving school children? I may not send my child to school tomorrow. But how long will we need to keep our children home out of fear of outside criminals?” said Shaila Yasmin, the mother of a student of the school.
Shaiful Alam, convenor of MUBC Guardians’ Forum, a Facebook-based group which also organises activities at the school, alleged people from outside, led by the outgoing ad-hoc committee, assaulted teachers last Thursday.
He alleged State Minister for Industries and local MP Kamal Ahmed Majumder and his associates formed the ad-hoc committee to run the school per their wishes.
“We demand a committee formed through direct vote of the guardians.”
Founded five decades ago, Monipur School now has more than 38,000 students at its main campus in Monipur and branches at Shewrapara, Ibrahimpur and Rupnagar.
In January every year, the institution earns around Tk 380 million from tuition fees, and admission and session charges at a time. Its monthly income from tuition fees is around Tk 40 million. Annually, it earns nearly Tk 820 million. It also has fixed deposits in banks, which return interests every month.
It spends Tk 520 million on salaries of teachers and employees, and other operational costs.
The remaining Tk 300 million is spent on development and purchases. Teachers allege local politicians use their influence to control the spending of this fund for their own benefit.
The total assets of the school are now worth around Tk 100 billion.
“The disputes take place over the embezzlement of these funds,” a teacher said, requesting anonymity in fear of repercussions.
The school paid suppliers and contractors Tk 3.14 billion between 2015 and 2022, according to a report by the education ministry.
Acting Headmaster Zakir said he blocked most of the payments after he took charge in March.
“For example, a bill for cleaners and sweepers should amount to a maximum of Tk 600,000, but it was Tk 1.6 million. I sent such bills to the Finance Committee for further review. I think I angered a certain quarter by blocking or cutting these bills.”
Md Rashed Kanchan, the administrative coordinator of the school, said Zakir asked ad-hoc committee chief Delwar to sign the MPO bills in March, but Delwar did not pay any heed to the headmaster’s request because Delwar and State Minister Kamal Majumder want the school to operate under a trust.
“They registered a trust for that reason but the board chairman objected to their plan. A writ petition was also filed at the High Court. A five-decade old institution cannot be put under a trust. This is the crisis facing the school now.”
Kamal Majumder denied the allegations that his follower Delwar misappropriated funds and ordered the attack on the teachers.
“I poured funds from my business into this school. I feel proud when I see the students of this school do well in exams or get good jobs. Why would I want the school to be in disorder?”
“My men told me many times that they wanted to drive them [teachers protesting against the plan to put the school under a trust] out. I asked them not to go near the school so that peace can be maintained. We’ll do everything through the legal process.”
[Writing in English by Osham-ul-Sufian Talukder]