Let me give you five professionals in a suburban setting – an administrative official, a doctor, a police officer, a municipal councillor and a teacher. Imagine, for argument's sake, any of the first four persons found Ashraful Ahsan Jitu, the student who murdered his teacher, in a compromising position with a girl and advised him to stop being intimate with her.
Do you think Jitu would dare to devise a plan to beat a police officer? Or an administrative official? Or any of them? He would not dare.
However, Jitu not only beat his teacher Utpal Kumar, but also killed him. Why? Because he thought he could eventually get away with that crime.
This sense of insolence among students in their behaviour toward teachers cannot be regarded as an isolated event. Because harassment of teachers by students and regular citizens has seen a gradual rise in Bangladesh.
Teachers are apparently the easiest prey of impudent teenage gangs, especially when they attempt to correct their students' disgraceful behaviours, or of religious fanatics because of the science chapters they are teaching in the classrooms.
Last month Swapan Kumar Biswas, the acting principal of Mirzapur United College, was forced to wear a garland of shoes in front of the administration and police for 'hurting religious sentiments.' Or did you forget what happened to Hriday Chandra Mondal or Shyamal Kanti Bhakta?
These were the cases widely covered in the media. But you didn't hear the story of college teacher Jahir Jewel from Rajapur Government College, Jhalakathi.
One of his students was disturbing the class. This particular student did not bother to bring any books or stationery. When Jahir asked him to leave the classroom, he threatened to stab him until he died in front of all the students.
Jahir had to seek assistance from the police and called on the guardians for his safety.
"Now I think of this every day. Should I continue doing this helpless job? Or should I give up? No matter how much the students insult, the teachers have to put up with it. Because they are a helpless group of people," Jahir posted on Facebook later, "As if they [teachers] deserve the garlands of shoes on their neck; as if they deserve to be beaten to death."
We could perhaps write off what Jahir wrote as a teacher expressing frustration over his student's behaviour. But that would only prolong the discrimination, poverty, prejudice and disrespect that our teachers have long been enduring in silence.
Where do the teachers rank in our society? To begin with, ask this question to our young job hunters – how many of them want to be teachers. You will find only a handful. I have talked to dozens of job aspirants about their targets and career ideas. Teaching doesn't fit in with most of their dreams.
And why would they? Did you not read reports about how teachers were forced to sell vegetables on the streets during the Covid-led lockdowns after school authorities fired them en masse? Think of the top private schools in Dhaka where rich children go. Have you ever talked about how much the teachers earn? Except for a few in Gulshan and Banani, or the top-tier private English-medium schools, most teachers cannot even pay house rent if they don't also work as private tutors.
As a teacher's son myself, and as someone who taught students during the first years of his career, let me tell you that when a teacher has to anxiously ask for tuition salary from the student's parents, the teacher knows who his livelihood exactly depends on, and that is the teacher's social rank.
Last month I met a fellow teacher I worked with around a decade back who changed his career to an electric mechanic because it pays him better and he believes it gives him more respect and dignity than teaching.
And if you are thinking that perhaps those who teach at universities are the highest-ranked or the highest-paid professionals, then you would be wrong.
Dhaka University Law Professor Asif Nazrul wrote in an op-ed half a decade back that he had a sense of overwhelming joy being a university teacher until when "the greater insult" came.
"My firm belief is now shaken. The government has announced a new pay scale, according to which, university teachers will be the highest-paid third-grade employees. My friends who have joined the administration or the army are going to be the highest-paid first-grade employees. I have always had better results than most of my friends," he wrote.
"In any civilised country, teachers are paid much more than bureaucrats. It's not really the salary that matters, it is a matter of honour and dignity. Why are we third-grade?" he added.
This should explain our young people's craze to become police administrative officers as society worships them as demigods. It illustrates where our teachers fit, whether we rank these professionals in terms of their earnings or the dignity they enjoy in society.
While the university teachers are unhappy about the 'third-grade' in the highest salaries bestowed upon their profession, let me tell you, the teachers at the school level in different corners in Bangladesh are not sure they are even third-grade citizen.
And that perhaps draws a line between a 'civilised country' and Bangladesh.