One third of students may never come back to school

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One of the main concerns amid Covid-19 crisis is that one-third of students of primary and secondary school levels may drop out of the education system and never come back.

Educationalists said this in a virtual seminar titled “tackling the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the education sector of Bangladesh” organized by South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) on Monday.

Experts also emphasized the lack of technological availability, inequalities arising from online education, a disadvantage for remote areas and marginalized students, and an integrated plan to tackle the grave situation awaiting the country’s education system.

Dr Syed Manzoorul Islam, professor at the Department of English at the University of Dhaka said: “There is an assumption that 30% of students will not come back to school after the pandemic situation is over. Many families are losing their income source.”

He also said: “Government has to find vulnerable families, those who have no access to technology for receiving online education and do not have sufficient earnings to send their children to school instead of making them work.”

“Those families should receive Tk300-400 monthly for bringing back their children to school rather than sending them to work,” he added.

Rasheda K Choudhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) said: “Children of chor areas, haor areas, and tea gardens do not have smartphones and access to the internet.”

“44% of families in the country do not have television. How can they receive an education online? Inequality is also increasing among mainstream, English medium and religious streams of education,” she added.

“Thus many students are already excluded from the education system. Due to the lack of family earning the rate of dropping out will increase further.”

“This dropout may result in early marriage, and early marriage will cause early pregnancy. All these will lead to malnutrition,” she warned.

Md Fashiullah, director-general of the Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) said: “Online, televised or radio-based education, whatever it is, is to keep students in touch.”

“Stipend money will be sent through mobile financing to all parents. Up to June this year, every student will get Tk1900 as a stipend. We are also sending 30-50 packets of biscuits to each student’s house,” he added.

How these losses can be minimized

Rasheda K Choudhury said: “Millions of reusable and environmentally friendly face masks will be needed. We also have to think about how to ensure that all the students wash their hands before entering schools. A lot of work has to be done.”

“In these circumstances, mobile operators should come forward with free packages as they are earning more in the pandemic situation from their corporate social responsibility fund,” she said.

Manzoorul said: “We should count the education year as 10 months. So, if we lose six months due to Covid-19, it will take three years to recover the lost time. We can reduce 10% of the syllabus. Loss of this time would not be the main challenge, the main challenge will be to prevent dropouts.”

“Budget allocation is the problem to tackle the worst. This year 3% of GDP should be allocated for the education sector. Bangladesh allocates less for education compared to other South Asian countries,” he added.

Mehedi Al Amin, Dhaka Tribune 

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