Attendance of students at educational institutions in Sunamganj, worst affected district in the haor belt in this year’s flashflood, has gone down as the students are often forced to work with their families for their survival.
About 95 per cent of the standing boro paddy, the only annual crop in the haor region, was massively damaged in the flashflood which was caused by excessive rainfall and onrush of hilly water coming from upstream across the border in late March.
Talking to New Age, teachers of a number of educational institutions in the district confirmed that a large number of their students, particularly from insolvent families, had not been able to attend classes.
Many students, they explained, had been forced to go either to collect submerged rotten paddy for feeding the cattle or to stand in queues for collecting relief.
They also had been helping their parents with fishing as an alternative source of earning some much-needed cash, the teachers said.
Abul Kalam Chowdhury, a leader of Dharmapasha upazila primary teachers’ association, cited migration by affected villagers to urban areas, triggered by the acute food and livelihood crises in the flood-hit region, as another major reason behind the rise of student absence in educational institutions.
‘We fear, the situation would get worse in the coming days when the floodwater would go down and the food crisis would intensify further,’ he said.
Atikur Rahman, a farmer from Tahirpur upazila, whose son Faizur Rahman had successfully passed the Secondary School Certificate examinations this year, said: ‘My son has been insisting for several days on getting him admitted into a college. How I can think of it when I can’t even meet the everyday needs of my seven-member family?’
Parimal Kanti Dey, a retired principal of Sunamganj Government College, told New Age that the number of student dropouts in the district would increase this time, if the government did not take effective steps to tackle it immediately.
‘Taking steps right now to exempt monthly fees for the students of flood-hit areas, to distribute midday meals among them and to bring them under government stipend schemes could help prevent student dropouts here,’ Parimal said.
According to the district primary and secondary education officials, the student attendance has gone down by 30 per cent in the district’s worst affected upazilas, including Tahirpur, Derai, Dharmapasha, Jamalganj and Dakkhin Sunamganj.
Admitting the sharp decline in student attendance at schools, district primary education officer Bayezid Khan said, ‘Of about 3 lakh primary students, almost 12 per cent were absent at the first terminal exams that ended this month.’
He added that they had requested the authorities to launch school feeding in the region.
District secondary education officer Md Nizam Uddin said that the attendance of students at the educational institutions had fallen after the flashflood had submerged the boro crop. ‘We are considering bringing the students of flood-hit areas under a special stipend scheme,’ he said.
According to the Agricultural Extension Department, standing paddy on 1,66,612 hectors out of 2,23,082 hectors wetlands in the district were massively damaged in the recent flashflood.
The local sources, however, claimed that almost 95 per cent of half-ripen standing boro paddy had been damaged this year.
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