No principals in 141 government colleges

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Choddogram Government College in Cumilla has had no principal for around one year now. It has no vice principal. An assistant professor is the acting principal. And 10 of the college’s 34 teachers’ posts remain vacant, though the institution has around 1,800 students.

Teachers of the college said that academic and administrative functions are hampered in the absence of a principal. No important decisions can be made. The college faces a leadership crisis. It is just running along in a makeshift manner.

There are 141 colleges in the country that are similarly running with no principal. There are a total of 632 government colleges in the country, meaning over 22 per cent of the colleges have no principals. And in 28 colleges there are no vice principals either. And there are 2,878 posts of teachers that are vacant, that is 18 per cent of these posts remain empty.

There is no crisis of teachers who qualify to be appointed as principals and vice principals in some of the colleges in the big towns. Normally professors are appointed as principals. There are over 350 professors and around 2,000 associate professors in the country’s government colleges. Associate professors are even appointed as principals and vice principals in small colleges.

The education ministry is in charge of appointing principals to the government colleges. It is alleged that the present situation has emerged due to the failure to take timely steps for appointments. The ministry has been extremely careless about the matter.

Sources in the ministry say that around 350 teachers have applied for principal and vice principal posts in various colleges. But the lethargy of the ministry has left these top college posts vacant.

Another big challenge was dealing with the student leaders. That is not possible without a principal. Principals are also needed to coordinate the online classes during the coronavirus pandemic

The ministry wastes no time, though, in facilitating teachers’ transfers, even during the coronavirus pandemic. Such transfers often involve lobbying and other irregularities. In an order issued on 17 September, a teacher who had died four months ago was transferred along with other teachers. The education ministry faced a volley of criticism for this carelessness.

Former president of BCS general teachers’ association and principal of Kabi Kazi Nazrul Government College in the capital city, IK Selim Ullah Khandakar, told Prothom Alo, principals run the administrative and academic work of the colleges. Acting principals do not want to take responsibility of financial transactions. Problems invariably arise in the absence of a full-fledged principal.

He said, another big challenge was dealing with the student leaders. That is not possible without a principal. Principals are also needed to coordinate the online classes during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Colleges without principals

According to records of the education ministry and the directorate of secondary and higher secondary education, there are 329 old colleges in the country, where there are no principals in 63. And in the 303 colleges which had become government colleges from non-government ones in 2018, there are no principals in 78.

These tops posts remain vacant in many of the larger colleges too. These include the Barishal Government BM College, Jashore Government MM College, Jashore Government City College, Mymensingh Muminunnisa Government Mahila College, Gouripur Government College, Patukhali Government College, Sherpur Government College, Rajshahi New Government Degree College, Thakugaon Government College, Chuadanga Government College and Faridpur Government Sarda Sundari Mahila College, among others.

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There are colleges which have several professors who qualify to be principals. For example, in Nilphamari Government College there are five professors, but the post of principal there has been vacant since 30 April. A teacher of the college, on condition of anonymity, said the college has 15,000 students, but with no principal, the routine work is simply being run somehow.

Just as a ministry can’t run without a minister, a college can’t function properly without a principal. The college falls flat on its face without a principal.

Syed Manzoorul Islam, educationist

Manikganj’s Government Debendra College is among the bigger colleges. The post of vice principal there has been vacant for the last seven or eight months. There has been no vice principal at Shariatpur Government College for over a year. There are also no vice principals in 28 colleges including Bhola Government College, Naogaon Government College, Rajshahi Government City College and Lalmonirhat Government College.

Secretary of the education ministry’s secondary and higher education division, Mahbub Hossain, speaking to Prothom Alo, said an initiative has been taken to identify the colleges where there are no principals and vice principals. Applications for these posts have already been submitted. Selections are at the final stage. By October these posts will be filled.

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New appointment rules

During the 2014-18 term of the government, an oral exam would be taken to draw up a list of qualified candidates and college principals and vice principals would be appointed from among them. The education ministry has changed the appointment rules.

The new rules came into effect from June this year. The oral exam has been abolished. From now, online applications for the posts of college principals and vice principals will be accepted online in July and December every year. A committee will form a panel of qualified teachers based on seniority, qualifications, efficiency and reputation. The principals and vice principals will be appointed from among them. A five-member committee headed by the education ministry will select the qualified teachers.

Speaking to Prothom Alo on condition of anonymity, an official said that so far around 350 teachers have applied for the posts of principal and vice principals under the new rules.

However, many of the teachers complain that generally principals and vice principals are appointed on political considerations. Relatives of influential persons are also given appointments. This happens in the case of transfers too.

Former director general of the secondary and higher education directorate, Fahima Khatun, told Prothom Alo that in order to ensure quality education, the vacant posts in the colleges must be filled and new posts created. There are many professors and they can speedily be promoted as principals.

Teachers’ posts vacant

There are 15,652 approved posts of teachers in the country’s government colleges. This is far below requirements. On top of that, from the posts of lecturer up to principal, there are 2,878 posts vacant.

There are 547 approved posts of professors of which 185 are vacant. There are 4,471 posts of assistant professor of which 375 are vacant. Of the 8,334 lecturer posts, 2,035 are vacant.

Teachers are generally appointed to government colleges from the BCS general education cadre. But this is a lengthy process. That is why a large number of teachers’ posts in the colleges remain vacant. This affects studies. The secondary and higher education directorate said that for quite a few years now there has been a proposal to create 12,500 new posts in the colleges.

Educationist Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam, speaking to Prothom Alo, said, “Just as a ministry can’t run without a minister, a college can’t function properly without a principal. The college falls flat on its face without a principal.”

He said, principals should be appointed on an emergency basis to colleges which have no principals. The education ministry should not look at its education responsibilities simply from an administrative angle.

*This report appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir.

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