Teachers are living a miserable life with no income; schools are closing every day one after another; the govt says it has no plan to assist ailing private sector schools
Parents are deeply worried about their children's future as most students of private schools have not attended classes since March 17 after the government shut down educational institutions over the Covid-19 pandemic.
To avoid educational losses, the relevant ministry introduced online classes from March 29, but private institutions, especially kindergartens and elementary schools, did not take any initiative to connect their students to those classes.
Rather, they closed their institutions and went to look for other sources of income.
As a result, hundreds of thousands students across the country have been passing an idle time owing to a lack of proper supervision.
Educationists think it will be tough to fill the learning gap of students.
Hasan Mahmud, a small businessman in the capital's Matikata area, told The Business Standard that his son studies in Class Three at Ideal Public School, but has been detached from learning for over four months now.
"My son understands nothing from online classes which is why he does not watch them any longer. He has lost his concentration on study at home, and his school teachers do not help him," he said.
"I heard that the school has been closed permanently. I do not know what is awaiting my child in the future," he added.
Md Firoz, another guardian living in the Gabtoli area, said his son never sat for even an hour a day to study at home since the school shut down.
"I am anxious about my son's future. He is going to forget everything he has learnt," he said.
"Meanwhile, the school has been closed due to a fund crisis. There is no other school in my area where I can get my son admitted. I cannot afford to send him to a reputed but costly school," Fizoz added.
According to a report by the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics, the country has about 1.25 lakh private schools with around 1.75 crore students.
As per data received from the Kindergarten association, there are about 60,000 playschools all over Bangladesh with about one crore students. And, 90 percent of schools are not helping their students to connect to online classes.
Teachers' daily life another sad tale
Most teachers of these private schools, except English medium ones and some reputed institutions, are not getting salaries since March.
A good number of these teachers used to get poor payment to begin with, and had to do private tuition to survive. Coronavirus has closed that income source too.
As a result, many teachers have already started leaving the profession and searching for another source of income. Some have even turned into daily wage earners.
Meherul Islam, an assistant teacher of Raojatul Adab Kindergarten School in Gaibandha's Sundarganj upazila, has become a boatman.
"I was getting only Tk4,000 per month which was very inadequate to run a four-member family. However, I loved the teaching profession and, hence, continued it. My salary has been stopped since March, and I had no other option but to become a boatman," he said.
When asked about his students, he said he could not give a moment to them.
Kamrul, a school teacher in Habiganj, has turned into a day labourer.
"I never thought I would be compelled to leave my 15-year teaching career and do daily labour. I feel for my students because they are out of studies."
Schools closing every day
According to the Bangladesh Kindergarten School and College Oikyo Parishad, more than 1,000 schools have circulated leaflets to sell the institutions while 100 more have closed down for good.
The owners said they cannot afford to run schools as a large amount of money is needed to operate them.
They admitted that the students will face uncertainty due to the closure of schools. It will be tough for them to adapt to new institutions.
Nargis Akhter, founder of Ideal Public School at Matikata in Dhaka, has 300 students and 22 teachers in her school. She started the school in 2005 but has closed it as she could not afford the monthly cost.
"I am not upset about my school, but I am worried about my students. Many of them are from low-income families. Their study will be stopped," she added.
Abu Sayed, founder principal of UNA Model School at Gabtoli in the capital, also closed his school last month.
"I need Tk1.5 lakh per month to run the school, but I am unable to continue it as the parents are not paying any money," he said.
Ikbal Bahar Chowdhury, president of the Bangladesh Kindergarten School and College Oikyo Parishad, told The Business Standard that about 50 percent of these teachers will be forced to change their profession if the coronavirus lingers in Bangladesh. The private schools will also face a teacher crisis after the pandemic.
"We do not know how many schools will be closed. But the tendency to shut down the institutions is alarming."
No Govt allocation yet
The government also does not have any immediate plan for these professionals – over 10 lakh teachers and employees of private institutions.
Professor Syed Golam Faruk, director general at the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, told The Business Standard that the education ministry has no more plans to help the private school teachers right now.
Mizanur Rahman Sarker, secretary general of the Bangladesh Kindergarten Association, said "We have applied to the prime minister and other ministries concerned for a special allocation, but they are yet to respond."