THE government’s plan to set up 1,000 primary schools in both rural and urban areas, having no schools, as New Age reported on Thursday, is a welcome move. But what casts a shadow on the project at hand is that a previous project on the establishment of 1,500 primary schools, the construction of 1,495 of which have already been completed, missed at least three deadlines. The government took up the previous project — based on a survey in 2008 which found at least 2,000 villages without any primary schools — in July 2010 and was set for a completion by June 2015; but the project tenure was then extended up to December 2016 and then to June 2018. With five of the schools yet to be completed as of now, as the Directorate of Primary Education director general says, the work to create positions for these schools has been under way. The project officials concerned are reported to have blamed a delayed disbursement of fund allocation and land disputes for the slow pace of the implementation of the project for 1,500 schools.
What remains striking is that the government does not hesitate to put more capital into ailing banks, injudiciously though as it has not taken any deterrent steps against the people who were responsible for the deplorable state of the banking sector by largely not holding them to account, but appears to be delaying funds release for the construction of primary schools, and that too, for areas where there are no schools. Financial Institutions Division data show, as was reported in March, that the government sanctioned Tk 97.88 billion, in bail-out funds, for the scam-riddled state-owned banks from the 2013 financial year to the 2017 financial year. Besides, about 40,000–45,000 teaching positions in primary schools are reported to have been vacant, waiting to be filled in. With new schools coming on the scene, the government needs to expeditiously act on teacher recruitment. Only schools plagued by teacher shortage, otherwise, would defeat the purpose of the establishment of the educational institutions. There are 1,26,615 primary schools in all in Bangladesh, with 5,40,000 teachers teaching 18.6 million students. In view of the situation, the government should set up schools after assessing the national needs. The government is setting up the schools in a way that could attract children aimed at enhancing access to education and reducing the incidence of students dropping out. The school buildings will have separate latrines for boys and girls and will have arsenic-free tube-wells, for drinking water, installed. But the government needs to be judicious in spending public money.
The government, under the circumstances, must ensure that the delayed disbursement of funds does not hinder the implementation of the project on the construction of 1,000 primary schools as it happened in the case of the previous project. And it must also ensure that public money is spent on the establishment of schools judiciously and only after a proper assessment of the national needs.
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