Budget for coronavirus-battered education sector unchanged
The allocation for the education sector in the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year of 2020-21 remains almost unchanged in terms of size and percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), compared to the current budget.
There have been expectations that the size of allocation in the education sector will go up significantly in the next fiscal year, to contain the possible increased dropouts in schools which will subsequently cause a rise in child marriage, early pregnancy and child labour due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal allocated Tk 66,400 crore for the education sector for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
He allocated Tk 24,937 crore for the primary and mass education ministry, Tk 33,118 crore for secondary and higher education division and Tk 8,345 crore for technical and madrasa education division.
The amount makes up 11.69 percent of the total outlay and its share in the GDP stands at 2.09 percent.
In the current budget, the allocation for the education sector was Tk 61,118 crore and it was 11.68 percent of the total budget and 2.10 percent of GDP, according to budget documents.
Kamal in his budget speech said that normal education of about 4 crore students is being hampered due to the oronavirus crisis. "In the next fiscal it will be important for us to make up the education loses in the education sector. We have ensured enough resources to make up the loss in the budget" Kamal said, without giving any specific guidelines.
A Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) rapid survey came out on June 3 in which 126 NGO and teaching representatives gave their feedback, predicting increased dropouts and resulting in child marriages due to fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Of the respondents, 84 percent said dropouts will increase at schools, 72 percent said malnutrition will impact learning ability, 71 percent said child labour will increase and 58 percent said early marriage will increase.
Against this backdrop, the educationists called for at least a 15 percent allocation of the budget for the education sector, to continue the success in the sector and curb any kind of "catastrophic" situation.
They sought more funds for chalking out and implementation of a two to three-year-long Covid-19 response and recovery plan for the education sector.
"This is a traditional education budget. With the allocation, it will not be possible to recover the learning loss due to Covid-19," CAMPE executive director Rasheda K Choudhury said.
She hoped that the government will address the issue in the revised budget and education, health and human resource development will get their due priorities.
Brac University Professor Emeritus Manzoor Ahmed proposed that the government should make a special allocation of Tk 5,000 crore for upazila-based recovery and rescue plan from the coronavirus crisis for the education sector in the next budget.
Unesco also recommends spending 6 percent of GDP in the education sector.
Educationists say that the government expenditure on education as a proportion of GDP has been hovering around 2 percent for the last several years, which is lower than many other South Asian countries.
In fact, the education sector's share in the budget has been falling for the last few years -- in the revised budget of the 2010-11 fiscal year, for example, the figure was 14.3 percent.