Half of school-age children not enrolledMohiuddin Alamgir
A half of the country’s school-aged children are not enrolled in any school, official government surveys have found.
The Bangladesh Primary Education Annual Sector Performance Report and the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics, both published towards the end of 2012, found that 1.91 crore children aged between 6 and 17 are not receiving any schooling.
This amounts to 46 per cent of the total population of children in this age group, according to the government’s 2011 population and housing census.
The survey will be of particular concern to the government which had previously claimed that there was almost 100 per cent enrolment of primary school of children aged between 6 years and 10 years.
The full enrolment of children of primary school age by 2011 was one of the electoral pledges in the Awami League’s 2008 election manifesto.
The primary school education report, however, found that 23 per cent of the 2.4 crore children in this age group were in fact not enrolled.
The report, which was conducted by the Directorate of Primary Education, states that this is almost evenly split between boys and girls.
‘One in four [primary school aged] children are still out of school, which poses a huge challenge in achieving education for all,’ states a more recently published report on education prepared jointly by UNICEF, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
‘School attendance rate of children aged five years is fairly low with only about two out of 10 children attending pre-school,’ the report titled ‘Child Equity Atlas: Pockets of Social Deprivation in Bangladesh’ said.
The situation for secondary school enrolment is far worse.
The BANBEIS survey showed that 56 per cent of the 1.6 crore children in the 11-15 years age group and 85 per cent of the 69 lakh children aged 16-17 years were not enrolled.
The Campaign for Popular Education executive director, Rasheda K Choudhury, told New Age that in reality, the numbers of children who do not go to school are higher than even the survey figures.
‘In our experience, we observe that there are four categories of children —
those with disabilities, those that are poor and not settled, indigenous and those from remote areas such as hoar areas — are not part of primary and secondary school education,’ said Rasheda, who is also a former primary education adviser to the caretaker government.
‘Many children do not go to school for the lack of schools as there are many villages in the country without either any primary or secondary schools,’ she said.
‘In many cases, people cannot afford the high cost of education,’ she added.
Manzoor Ahmed, a senior adviser to the Institute of Educational Development in BRAC University, added, ‘Although the government does not agree with these statistics, the reality is that a large number of children are still out of school which poses a huge challenge in achieving education for all’.
Senior bureaucrats involved in primary and secondary school education, however, emphasised the efforts of the government in increasing enrolment.
Shyamal Kanti Ghosh, the DPE director general, told New Age that the enrolment of children in primary schools had increased in the past four years because of steps the government took
Fahima Khatun, the director general of the secondary and higher education directorate, said, ‘Enrolment has increased as the government was distributing free textbooks for secondary level, providing stipends for girl students, organising mid-day meals and establishing new schools.’
Both Rasheda and Manzoor, however, said that government efforts to bring all children in schools were not adequate in part because the education budget was not sufficient.
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