46pc people still illiterate
Tk 2,500 crore spent on adult literacy since 1991Mohiuddin Alamgir
Almost a half of the population continue to remain illiterate although successive governments have always talked about giving utmost priority to the sector and spent at least Tk 2,500 crore in last two decade, official statistics show.
Officials and education rights activists blamed poor planning, irregularities and corruption in projects that are implemented to increase literacy rate.
The government is also likely to miss the target of illiteracy eradication by 2014, as set out in the National Education Policy 2010 and the Sixth Five-Year Plan. Meeting the target was also an election pledge of the Awami League-led alliance when it won the 2008 general elections.
Bangladesh observes International Literacy Day today, with about 7.2 crore adult people, which account for about a half of the population, still remaining illiterate.
According to the Literacy Survey 2011 of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, published in July 2013, the functional literacy rate is 53.7 per cent for the population in the ranges of 11–45 years. The final report of the 5th Population and Household Census 2011 says that the country’s total population is 15.25 crore.
On that count, 46.3 per cent of the total population, or about 7.2 crore people, are illiterate.
According to the BBS, being functionally literate means having the ability to
read and write sentences, possessing skills of four basic arithmetic rules and the ability to use of the skills in life.
The Human Development Index 2012 rankings of the United Nations Development Programme says that 56.8 per cent of the people of 15 years and above in Bangladesh are literate.
The Bureau of Non-Formal Education says that 59.82 per cent of the people of 15 years and above are literate.
A high official of the Bureau of Non-Formal Education quoting the EFA Progress Report of Bangladesh 2012 told New Age that since 1991, governments had implemented a number of projects at an estimated cost of Tk 2,500 crore, with Tk 1,000 crore coming from the state exchequer, to eradicate illiteracy from Bangladesh but the effect was a little.
The literacy rate for people aged 15 years and above in 1991 was 35.3 and the functional literacy rate was 53.7 per cent for the population in the ranges of 11–45 years.
Sources said that the Integrated Non-Formal Education Project was implemented during 1991– 997 at the cost of Tk 10.7 crore, with Tk 2.6 crore coming from the government and the rest from the project aid.
The Non-Formal Education Project I was implemented during 1996–2001 at the cost of Tk 205.2 crore, with about Tk 39.9 crore coming from the government.
Again the Non-Formal Education Project 2 was implemented during 1995– 2002 at the cost of Tk 280 crore, with Tk 120 crore coming from the government
The Non-Formal Education Project 3 (Phase 1) was implemented during 1996–2003 at the cost of Tk 74.3 crore; the government spent Tk 2.5 crore and the rest came from the project aid.
The Non-Formal Education Project 4 (also known as the Total Literacy Movement) was implemented during 1997–2003 at the cost of Tk 682.9 crore, with the full amount coming from the government.
The Post-Literacy and Continuing Education for Human Development I was implemented during 2001–2007 at the cost of Tk 341.1 crore, with the government paying Tk 47.38 crore and the rest coming from the project aid.
Official said that the money for the Post-Literacy and Continuing Education For Human Development Project 2 has almost been spent fully as the project would end in September 2013. The government paid Tk 99.9 core of the Tk 601.4 crore that the project involved.
Official added that a major share of the money of the project Hard to Reach (Phase 2) had been spent as it was scheduled to be implemented during 2005– 2009 but was revised till June 2014, taking the total cost to Tk 206 crore, with Tk 7.05 crore coming from the government.
The officials said that the Second Chance Education Component project involving Tk 699.95 crore will begin in January 2014; Tk 608.9 crore will come from the government and the rest from the project aid.
A primary and mass education ministry official said that it seemed that development partners were not willing to make further investment in such projects ‘because of irregularities and corruption.’
He said that the government had been trying to launch two big projects — Basic Literacy and Continuing Education 1 and 2 — involving about Tk 3,000 crore to meet its election pledge of illiteracy eradication for about three years but the government had yet to receive any aid for the projects.
‘There are differences between government and NGO figures of the literacy rate. The government sometimes tries to exaggerate the figure while NGOs try to keep it lower,’ the official said.
He said, ‘A comprehensive plan and earnest implementation helped Russia to increase literacy rate to 87 from 57 between 1926 and 1939. In Cuba, the literacy rate reached 96 from 76 in a single year in 1961.’
The literacy rate in Tanzania reached 73 per cent from 23 between 1970 and 1977 while in Nicaragua, the rate reached 87 from 50 in a single year in 1980, he added.
‘It is unfortunate that a half of the country’s population are still illiterate,’ Rasheda K Choudhury, a former adviser to the caretaker government who was responsible for overseeing the primary and mass education ministry, told New Age.
‘The Awami League in its election manifesto pledged to eliminate illiteracy by 2014 but it certainly will not happen in a year,’ Rasheda K Choudhury, also executive director of the Campaign for Popular Education, said.
The National Education Policy 2010 and the Sixth Five-Year Plan have set a target of 100 per cent literacy by 2014.
‘The government has not taken up any well-meaning plans and strategies and made any investments in implementing the target to free Bangladesh of illiteracy by 2014,’ Rasheda said.
‘Lack of proper strategies, faulty designs and irregularities have been common in the projects,’ she added.
The Bureau of Non-Formal Education director general, Md Alamgir, told New Age that there were some problems with project planning as the time gap between the planning and the implementation was too wide. ‘To get the maximum results, the time frame of the planning and the implementation should be narrowed’ he said.
‘There is corruption everywhere in Bangladesh. I will not say that the bureau is free of corruption but the officials are relatively honest than people in other sectors,’ he added.
The primary and mass education minister, Afsarul Ameen, told New Age that the literacy rate was 71. The figure was 52 per cent in 2009 when the Awami League-led government assumed office, he said.
Afsarul, however, said that the government had achieved a full primary enrolment but the drop-out rate had continued at 29 per cent; and the government is implementing various programmes to eradicate illiteracy.
Afsarul set aside any chance of irregularities in the projects. ‘I do not know what happened in the past. Now now we monitor everything strictly. Officials implementing the projects are working sincerely,’ he said.
He said that in keeping with the election pledge of the ruling alliance, his ministry was working relentlessly to eradicate illiteracy completely from the country by 2014.
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