Many parents are not showing interest in having their children enrolled in new classes at the primary and secondary levels even 19 days after the new academic year began amid the closure of the educational institutions.
As a result, many pre-primary, play group, nursery, KG, class-1 and class-2 seats in most government primary schools, non-government schools and kindergartens remain vacant creating a fear of a sharp drop in the enrolment rate and a steep increase in the dropout rate, school and kindergarten teachers said.
They said that despite giving waiver in admission fees, students were not getting readmitted to many non-government schools and kindergartens across the country arguing that they did not find the distance learning and online classes offered by the schools worthy enough to pay tuition fees.
They further said that many non-government schools and kindergartens were facing threats of disappearance as many parents had transferred their children from such institutions to government schools and also to madrassahs that have been allowed to operate amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Dhaka University professor emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology professor Mohammad Kaykobad both said that COVID-19 would have an immediate and lasting negative impact on the country’s vulnerable, complex and discriminatory education system.
‘As an immediate impact, the enrolment rate will drop while the dropout rate will increase resulting in an increase in child labour and early marriage incidences. On the other hand, poor educational competencies of the students due to the closure of the educational institutions will persist for their whole life,’ Serajul said.
The government has taken no comprehensive plan to ensure the continuation of education for all students and operation of the schools by providing incentives after closing the normal activities of the educational institutions in March 2020, Kaykobad said.
The Education Watch 2020–21 Interim Report launched on Tuesday states that 69.5 per cent of the students attended distance learning platforms such as online classes, online radio and TV broadcasts introduced by the government amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The survey carried out on 2,992 respondents — 1,709 students, 578 teachers, 576 parents and 64 education officials — from 21 upazials under eight districts reveals that 57.9 per cent of the students did not have access to the distance learning platforms as they had no requisite devices.
It further shows that 16.5 per cent of the learners did not attend distance classes for they did not find those interesting.
Mustafizur Rahman, a private service holder from Khilgaon, said on Tuesday that he had no intention to have his 5-year child enrolled at a school until the situation became normal.
‘The admission amid the closure of schools will mean various problems like purchasing a mobile device for the kid at this very early age to attend classes. Paying the admission and tuition fees would be another trouble as my own salary is not stable,’ Mustafizur said.
Abdur Rahim, a CNG scooter driver from Madartek in the capital, said on the day that he had decided to suspend his daughter Sumaiya Islam’s education for the time being as he did not find any reason for paying admission and tuition fees amid the closure of her school.
A total of 5,74,929 application forms were issued for online admission against 77,140 vacant seats in classes 1 to 9 at the 683 government high schools across the country, according to the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education.
Suritola Model Government Primary school teacher Md Anisur Rahman said that many parents were lobbying for getting their wards enrolled at classes 3–6 while not many parents were coming for admission of their children at pre-primary–class 2 levels in schools that teach students at these levels.
‘Even after enrolling 130 students at class 6 we are still under pressure to enrol more students, who studied at nearby kindergartens,’ said Anis.
‘This year we have received only 49 students at the pre-primary level and 51 in class 1 while the number of students enrolled last year at these classes was 70 each,’ he added.
Anisur Rahman, also the president of Bangladesh Primary Assistant Teachers’ Society, further said that it was a common picture for most of the government primary schools.
Principal Md Mizanur Rahman of Rose Garden High School at Golapbagh in the capital said that his school had only four students in the play group though last year it enrolled 100 students at the class.
‘Parents are not showing interest in getting children aged between four and six years enrolled at schools amid the COVID-19 prevalence,’ said Mizanur, also the member secretary of a faction of Bangladesh Kindergartens Association.
The head teachers of Shapla Academy, Little Friends Nursery School, Khilgaon Modern Education Home and other schools, he said, have also informed him that the enrolment in those schools was very low and many students have stopped communicating with schools for months creating the fear that such schools may go out of operation.
More than 100 kindergartens running in accordance with the national curriculum have suspended their operation, he said.
Bangladesh Teachers Association president Nazrul Islam Rony said that all the non-government schools except for a few reputable ones had obtained enough students against their vacant seats.
Iqbal Siddiqui, principal of Iqbal Siddiqui School and College in Gazipur, said that many students in his nearby areas were migrating to madrassahs that have been allowed to conduct face-to-face classes.
‘The government is in fact patronising madrassahs but not schools,’ he added.
Iqbal Siddiqui and Mizanur Rahman demanded the reopening of educational institutions as they said everything was going on in a normal manner in the country.
Professor Serajul Islam said that the increase in the number of students at madrassahs because of the discriminatory government policy amid the coronavirus crisis would create social problems as madrassah students usually did not contribute to the workforce.
Professor Kaykobad said that the government must prepare a comprehensive plan and allocate large funds to solve the problems in the education system in the greater interest of the nation’s future.
Education ministry secretary Md Mahbub Hossain said that the government would take steps to have the real picture after the reopening of the educational institutions and would formulate plans based on views and recommendations to be offered by academics and independent researchers.
According to state minister for primary education Md Zakir Hossain, the government has already conceived a recovery plan to make up the losses resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.
‘We have taken necessary preparations for keeping the enrolment rate stable and containing the dropout rate,’ he added.
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