- 53,000 teachers waiting for retirement benefit
- Tk5,000cr to clear the cases
- So far Tk65,000cr provided to 1.65 lakh teachers since fund inception
- Waiting period to be six months; 2-3 years in reality
- Allegations of bribes to get benefits faster
- Education minister says situation to be resolved soon
Nayem Uddin Ahmed, a head teacher of Shakpur High School in Cumilla's Barura, went into retirement in 2021.
What was meant to be a relaxing adventure soon turned stressful as Nayem was diagnosed with cancer. The expensive treatment led him to selling all his assets and using up his savings.
With both children in university and expenses mounting, Nayem turned to the Non-government Teachers and Employees Welfare Trust (NGTEWT) and Non-Government Employee Retirement Benefits Board (NGERBB) to get his retirement benefits.
Two years into his retirement, he is yet to get a single penny.
"I am passing my days in hardship. I cannot provide any money to my children and even cannot contribute to my family expenses. I cannot express the pain," he told The Business Standard.
"It is my right to get the retirement benefit soon after my retirement. But why has it been delayed? I am suffering, but I do not want others to suffer like me," he said.
Nayem's case is not an isolated one. As many as 53,000 retired teachers and employees have been counting the days till they finally get their dues.
Non-government teachers and employees are supposed to get the benefit immediately after retirement. In case a person dies during service, their families should receive the benefit without delay.
But this does not happen in reality. There is no record of any beneficiary receiving retirement benefits on time.
AHM Shafiullah Hajeri, another retired teacher, was diagnosed with cancer a year ago. He applied for his benefit from NGERBB soon after his retirement, but is yet to get any.
"My treatment has stopped now. I was busy building the future generation for 35 years. but I am now helpless and having a painful time," he said.
Sharif Ahmed Sadi, member secretary of the NGERBB, told TBS that the government had not allocated sufficient money for the retirement board.
"It is very painful to us when a teacher comes and breaks down. We have been urging the government to pay the teachers' benefits on time but no progress has been made yet," he said.
"I am here only to distribute the fund. I cannot do anything if the government does not give me funds," he added.
A total of 31,000 applications are pending with the NGERBB. The retirement board needs at least Tk3,000 crore to pay all the applicants.
So far, the payments of teachers who applied till July 2019 have been cleared.
Maruf Hossain, an official at the retirement benefit board, said it should take around three months to process a retirement benefit check.
"Unfortunately, now it takes about three years," he said.
The NGERBB sources said it gets Tk65 crore from the teachers each month as the retirement board cuts 6% from the teachers' basic salary. But the board needs Tk100 crore each month. The board has provided Tk5,000 crore to 1.65 lakh teachers since the fund came into being.
Sources also said as many as 22,000 applications are pending for getting the benefit. The board needs at least Tk2,000 crore to dismiss it. It now is paying teachers and employees who applied in August 2020.
Md Shahjahan Alam Saju, member secretary of the welfare board, told TBS that they applied to the government for a special fund. "We have been trying to resolve the crisis. I think we will get rid of it soon," he said.
Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni said, "It is true that the retired teachers suffer. But it will not last long. We will take initiative to reduce the problem as early as possible."
Around five lakh teachers and employees work in about 28,000 non-government educational institutions under the Monthly Pay Order.
The government formed the Welfare Trust for Teachers and Employees of Non-Government Educational Institutions in 1990, but its operation was stalled from 1991 to 1996. However, operations resumed in 1997.
Allegation of bribes to get benefits!
Some officials of both the NGERBB and NGTEWT are allegedly involved in irregularities, providing retirement benefits earlier than scheduled in exchange for bribes.
A retired teacher wishing anonymity told TBS that he had to wait only six months to get the retirement benefit by giving Tk30,000.
Md Shahjahan Alam Saju denied the allegation and said his board is transparent in distributing the welfare fund.
Meanwhile, education experts expressed grave concern over the waiting period to get benefits, saying the government must take immediate initiatives to clear the cases.
Professor Dr Siddiqur Rahman, former director of the Institute of Education and Research at Dhaka University, told TBS that it is shameful for the nation as the teachers do not get their benefit in time and they die without treatment.
Such incidents discourage current teachers and those who have an interest in the teaching profession. The government must take a decision about the retirement fund for national interest, he said.