Once Azizul Haque showed children the path of enlightenment in classrooms in his own school in Trishal, Mymensingh. The pandemic has upended his world. The life of a headmaster now appears to be a distant memory of a dream that he had worked so hard for to turn it into a reality.
Having closed the primary school -- Al-Hera Academy – that he founded in 2000, he tends to cattle in a local farm to make ends meet.
"I have taken this job because of poverty. I find no other way to earn a living and take care of my family," Azizul said.
He had never taken any donation to run the school. He had managed all expenses, including salaries of teachers and other staff, from fees paid by students. But after the school was shut ahead of a countrywide shutdown in March last year, as per a government directive, parents stopped paying fees.
Azizul then sold out four decimals of land that he had inherited from his father to pay off dues to the teachers.
Azizul had dreamt of establishing his own school in Panchpara village of Trishal sadar union just after completion of his higher secondary certificate exams in 1993.
He opened a coaching centre when he was a BA student and joined a kindergarten school as a teacher in 1998. Finally in 2000, he opened his dream school.
"The pandemic has taught me the biggest lesson in my life," Azizul said.
"No work is disrespectable. But it is hard for me to not be able to be in my classroom. Many of my students got admission to prestigious institutions of the country like Buet [Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology] and Dhaka University. I always taught my students to be honest," he said.
Abdul Kalam Azad, the owner of the farm where Azizul has been working, said, "Azizul Haque is a respected teacher in Trishal for his contribution to education of local students. He came to me for a job after the closure of his school. I was embarrassed at first. But then I realized his plight. I am thinking of what more I can do for him."
Noor Mohammad, education officer of Trishal, said, "I have learnt about him [Azizul] from my colleagues. Not only him, we are also trying to help other private school teachers who have become jobless due to the pandemic."
He said he had already notified higher authorities about the problem.
Abdul Matin Sarkar, chairman of the education committee of the upazila, said the teachers of private educational institutions were living in a dire situation.
"They cannot seek help publicly. The story of Azizul Haque is very painful. We all are trying to do something for him."