Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Quality education in disadvantaged areas in Bangladesh depends on addressing equitable issues


Md Bayazid Khan
Education not only develops morality but also build human being as productive workforce. Education is also the most influential tool required to break the vicious cycle of abuse, malnutrition, poverty and oppression. A country’s economical, social, cultural and overall sustainable development depends mostly on education. Realizing the importance of education, the government of Bangladesh is lavishly contributing to ensure inclusiveness in education as well as providing qualitative education to all students at primary, secondary and tertiary tire of education. Government has chalked out multifarious & multidimensional digitalized plans with a view to provide qualitative education to make country’s future leaders as productive youth workforces who will be the key contributors for making government vision toward 2021 and 2041 a success. So, success of government’s vision thus requires a lot of attention in education.
But flat or uniform policy in education sector may be the hurdle as the country has hard to reach areas all over the country like low lying haor (low lying wet lands) areas, tea gardens, hilly areas etc. Uniform plan can never create all underprivileged and disadvantaged children’s smooth access to education as well as ensuring of providing them the most demanded education for livelihood. Uniform idea in education sector helps only to remain drop out, absenteeism, out of education and inadequate learning for employment in the most interior parts of the country. On the other hand, flat policy may hinder to remove vacancy of teachers, supervisory officers, office staffs as well as to appoint qualified teachers for educational institutions in above mentioned disadvantaged areas of the country.
This is absolutely true that quality education is the key to overcoming poverty. The term quality education means achievement of an acceptable level of reading, understanding and writing in Bangla & English language and solving simple problems in basics of arithmetic with need based learning for livelihood even the students depart education. So, quality must require suitable knowledge & skill based education for livelihood. Unfortunately, a significant number student in disadvantaged interior parts of the country fails to receive a quality education. Various studies of students’ learning achievement indicate that the situation is actually grim regards to attain quality education.
This is irony of matter comparing to government’s huge investment in primary education that only a few can read simple text fluently or answer questions from the text and do basic arithmetic sums. In addition, still some children simply do not have access to education in the underprivileged haor areas, tea gardens, char areas, hilly areas and slum areas. Those fortunate enough to enroll often drop out owing to poverty, malnutrition, poor communication & inadequate transport facilities, absence of student friendly school infrastructure and disinterest in participating teaching-learning activities in the classrooms. These are the massive challenges in primary education management of disadvantaged areas and definitely have some root causes that must be uprooted. Similar sorts of challenges like poor quality learning, drop out, teachers & students’ absenteeism, inadequate skill-based learning for livelihood also prevail in secondary and tertiary tier of education. So, considering the above mentioned prevailing hindrances towards imparting quality education to the students in the most disadvantaged parts of the country, the government must be chalked out area friendly suitable plans in lieu of flat plans to address equitable issues towards ensuring of quality education. Thus government vision regards to ensure equality in imparting quality education to entire students might be achieved.
Absences of qualified and committed teachers associated with huge number of vacant teachers’ posts are the main problem in haor districts and other disadvantaged areas. Shortages of qualified local personnel competent for teachers, communication problem with non-availability of transport facilities, absence of accommodation facilities at institutions’ campuses, existing primary school teacher appointment policy of keeping provision of appointing female teachers etc are the root causes of the problem. Vicious cycle of inadequate learning in all tiers of education must be broken by motivating teachers, parents and students as well as strengthening monitoring of teaching-learning system by supervisory offices, managing committee members, local public representatives & elites to get available teaching aspirant qualified local personnel. To the contrary, the government might be appointed required number of male teachers for a time being in disadvantaged areas’ government primary & secondary schools and colleges considering female teachers’ transfer tendency.
Teachers’ absenteeism is an acute problem in smooth running of classrooms teaching-learning activities and the problem certainly creates disinterest among students in attending schools/colleges regularly. So, residential or accommodation facilities for teachers might be ensured at educational institutions. The government may think of establishing teachers’ dormitory at a suitable place in each union. Moreover, the government may think of launching “Teachers Boat” for each & every union to ensure teachers’ timely arrival and departure. Management of the boats may be organized by the teachers. These boats might be used too as resource centers for teachers’ professional development. Teachers’ legitimate absenteeism due to enjoying various leave and temporary shortages of teachers may hinder smooth running of regular classroom activities. The government may form retired teachers’ pool at upazila level and hire them for mitigating temporary teacher crisis.
Poor attendance is a big concern towards continuation of students’ learning. Poor communication and lack of transportation hinder regular attendance of students at educational institutions of haor and hill districts. Moreover, absence of taking food during leisure, come without taking food, malnutrition etc also create disinterest among students of poor families to attend regularly or participate classroom activities actively. So, establishment of residential primary & secondary schools and colleges, launching of mid-day meal/school feeding program, providing small boats for students facing difficulties by the collaborative initiative of government and community people may remove students’ absence at schools. Beside government contribution well-off community people may be involved to bear the huge expenses of providing residential students with food or regular students with mid-day meal. During harvest haor people may contribute in cash or kind like giving rice, egg, fish and duck meat to supplement the government contribution.
Earning for families or helping to household activities/families’ income generating activities by children of ultra-poor families remain a reality in the aforesaid areas in Bangladesh. Many families don’t have a choice – they depend on the income earned by their children to keep food on the table. Because, even if most parents want their kids to go to school, poverty makes that impossible. In extremely poor families in Bangladesh, everyone has to earn something – even the children. Considering economic condition of ultra poor distressed families and geographical condition of the locality, second chance alternative education for out of school and dropped out children might be started with GO-NGO collaboration by establishing multi-graded learning centers or floating boat schools at hard to reach corners of the said disadvantaged districts keeping the provision of providing food, school dress, teaching aid etc and running the teaching-learning activities with flexible timetables. Other types of running GO-NGO schools aiming to same target might be brought under the flagship of second chance alternative education programme by making a convenient policy or guidelines.
To dispel another vital challenge of absence of adequate number of supervisory officers and office staffs at education offices because of huge number vacant posts, the government might be taken different policy for appointing or transferring them in haor districts and other disadvantaged areas. Haor allowance, better rate of TA/DA/Fixed TA (only for academic supervisors) than plain areas rate, fixing up maximum service duration, assurance of price posting after stipulated duration etc. might be inspired government officials to work with commitment at said areas. Workplaces at haor districts and other disadvantaged areas might not be identified as dumping station for punishment posting. There must have a mandatory policy for government officials to work there once in their total service time. Otherwise, they should not be considered for promotion.
As poor people of haor districts mostly depends on single crop paddy cultivation and fishing from natural source to earn their livelihood all the year round, therefore establishment of technical and vocational institute of fishery & fish processing, duck husbandry, agriculture, marine engineering etc. must encourage people to continue their offspring’s study. Continuation to study rather than dropping out also needs establishment of agro based industries like fish and dry fish processing factories, factories of frozen fast foods from fishes & ducks (nuggets, burgers, hot dogs, balls, fingers, rolls, patties etc.), factories of frozen fishes & duck meats, animal feed industries, rice product industries etc. in potential areas of haor districts. On the other hand, institute of tourism and hotel management also remove drop out from education as haor districts have potentiality on tourism expansion.
All the educational institutions in haor districts might be multi-storey and constructed or re-constructed by keeping the provision of using as flood shelters too. Hill areas schools also should be multi-storey. There should have separate wash blocks for boys & girls and electricity or solar panel facilities. Accommodation facilities for teachers may inspire teachers to stay at workplaces.
Last but not the least, officers working for education departments are to visit schools and their frequent school visit with intensive monitoring of teaching-learning activities can improves school environment and students’ learning performances. So, they might be involved mostly on duties with academic supervision or monitoring schools.
So, realization of government’s commitment to SDG4 providing entire students with quality education inevitably needs to make separate area friendly policies keeping eyes on addressing equitable issues rather than making flat or uniform policies. Hopefully, the country is on the wheels of progress in realizing its vision towards providing quality education to entire students all over the country.
Recent talk of the country is peoples’ sufferings due to water logging, flood, traffic congestion and disgusting & time consuming travelling for severely damaged road condition. Facing each and every issue people from all section of the community consciously or unconsciously blaming public representatives or the government. They are not blaming concern departments or administrative machineries of the country. Although public representatives have no absolute power to resolve the crisis regards to ensure peoples’ safe, comfortable and hazard less living. People only know that they elected public representatives who are the only authority to provide them basic civic facilities for smooth running of lives in the society. They are not concern to know the policy of the government or proper authority for addressing the above mentioned challenges for their sound existence in the community. Like other developed countries in the world people of Bangladesh rationally and authentically demand to their elected public representatives for providing them desired civic facilities for comfortable living in the society.



The writer is working for primary education in a haor district.

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