Educationists call for allocating 15% of the next year’s budget to recover losses in the education sector
Children's engagement in income-generating and household works due to a slump in their family income will lead to increased school dropouts in Bangladesh after the coronavirus outbreak is over, according to a research from Campaign for Popular Education (Campe).
The research has also found that absenteeism and irregular attendance in schools will also increase in post-pandemic period.
Teachers, particularly those at non-government educational institutions, will face hardships as they may not receive their salaries on time, say the study findings.
A majority of around 10 lakh teachers and other staff members at nearly 55,000 private educational institutions in the country have not been getting their salaries since March this year.
The Campe prepared the report based on opinions from 115 non-government organisations (NGOs) and 11 teachers' organisations in May. The Business Standard has been provided with a copy of that report.
Eighty-eight percent of the NGOs and teachers' organisations believe that syllabus may not be covered on time.
Meanwhile, 80 percent respondents believe the pandemic will lead to further rise in the dropout rate, absenteeism and irregular attendance in schools.
Seventy-two percent respondents feel more children will engage in income-generating works to support their families after the outbreak, while malnutrition will affect children's learning ability and basic needs like food will be more important than education to them. Sixty-two percent of the NGOs and teachers' organisations say rural women and girls are more likely to be malnourished.
According to 70 percent of the respondents, teachers, particularly those at non-government institutions, may not receive their salaries on time.
Around 50 to 60 percent respondents believe slump in family income will lead to higher dropout rates and early marriage among girls, there will be no supportive learning environment at homes, and learners in rural areas will lag further behind.
In this circumstance, educationists have demanded that 15 percent of total budget for the next fiscal year are allocated for the education sector.
The education sector will go through much difficulty in the post-pandemic era, they say, adding that only a sufficient budgetary allocation and its proper utilisation can save the sector.
They gave their opinions at an online discussion arranged by the Campe on Wednesday.
Professor Emeritus of Brac University Manzoor Ahmed said the government must allocate an additional Tk5,000 crore for quick response to prevent dropouts and ensure enrollment and quality education.
"The government should form upazila level education committees comprising government officials, teachers and civil society members to determine the needs of each upazila to save the education sector. The committees will find out the actual problems in their respective upazilas and take immediate action," he said.
Dr Khondoker Golam Moazzem, research director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said the country would face difficulties in ensuring food safety, health safety, social safety, and also education safety.
All the difficulties would take toll on the achievements in educational sector as dropout rates would increase further if the government failed to address those efficiently, he argued.
The government must find out the actual problems and create a separate fund to face the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, he added.
He also suggested putting works on the ongoing mega projects on hold and investing the money in the education sector instead.
Rasheda K Chowdhury, executive director of Campe, said, "We will be able to recover everything except the losses in education. It will be a great problem if we fail to take proper decision in this regard."
Aroma Datta MP said, "We have gained a momentum in the last 20 years. We cannot lose it. Budgetary allocation for the education sector must increase."
According to Dr Ehsanur Rahman, executive director of Dhaka Ahsania Mission, conducting an extensive research is a must to determine the losses in the education sector and to recover those.
He also called for creating a special fund and ensuring its proper and transparent utilisation to that end.
At least a two-year plan (2020-21) must be adopted to deal with the disruption of academic calendar -- completing lessons, adjusting exams, adjusting vacations, supporting learners, the Campe says.
The organisation also suggests following the school re-opening guidelines prepared by the Unesco, Unicef, World Bank, and World Food Programme.
Other recommendations put forward by the Campe include continuing complementary TV-radio, Internet and mobile-based lessons, with teachers' skills development and institutional e-infrastructure development; and increasing scope of stipends, school meal.
It also stresses rethinking post-crisis 'new normal' migration, and focusing on better use and integration of ICT in education, and has called for ensuring better teachers support and performances and reform in student assessment, and ensuring non-formal second chance involving research institutions and NGOs.