The governing Bangladesh Awami League in its manifesto for the 2008 national election, which the party won, had committed to eliminate illiteracy in the country by 2017.
Literacy rate among adults – 18 years and above – was 48 percent in 2008 as per the data of Bangladesh Sample Vital Statistics 2018 of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.
It has been 11 years since then, and the Awami League government has been in power for three consecutive terms.
The literacy rate now stands at 73.9 percent in the country, lower than that in India at 74.04 percent, and far behind Sri Lanka at 96.3 percent.
The rate is 67.3 percent and 81.7 percent in rural and urban areas of Bangladesh respectively.
Md Zakir Hossen, state minister for the primary and mass education ministry, said yesterday that there are several ongoing projects in the country to increase the literacy rate.
Adult literacy falls within the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Non-Formal Education, which is running a project to educate people left out of formal education.
Meanwhile, the bureau’s Basic Literacy Project is not doing well, says the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED), the official agency for monitoring projects.
It finds the project’s implementation status unsatisfactory because 22 lakh beneficiaries out of 45 lakh are yet to be enrolled.
The main activities of the project started in 2018. Its deadline got the first extension for one year and is now scheduled to end in June 2020.
The project had targeted setting up 75,000 learning centres with 150,000 teachers, and distributing over 96.36 lakh books among 45 lakh beneficiaries in 250 upazilas. One non-government organisation for each upazila, selected by the government, will run the learning centres.
The project authorities are yet to complete setting up 35,580 learning centres, appointing 71,620 teachers and publishing 46.40 lakh books for the learners, said a report of the IMED.
Educationist Rasheda K Choudhury said that the Bureau of Non-Formal Education is implementing a project to make people skilled and literate, but the authorities excluded basic programmes due to lack of financing.
“The fund crisis is not new. It creates obstacles to implementing various projects. It is also a big challenge,” she said.
"We are working to increase the literacy rate in the country,” said State Minister Zakir. “Many projects are now underway to help us reach our goal."
Secretary to the ministry Md Akram-Al-Hossain said that they are working towards making underprivileged groups such as street children and people in the hill tracts literate.
They were speaking at a programme at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy marking International Literacy Day-2019.
Tapan Kumar Ghosh, director general of the Bureau of Non-formal Education, was also present.
The Awami League’s 2008 election manifesto titled “A Charter for Change” also stated “net enrolment at the primary level will be increased to 100 percent by 2011”.
The rate of enrolment at the pre-primary level is currently 97.85 percent while the dropout rate at the primary level is 18.6 percent. The rate of completion of primary level education (Class-V) is 81.4 percent, according to official figures.