‘Don’t deprioritise education’
Educationists have called for increasing allocation for education sector in the upcoming budget to implement plans to help students overcome Covid-19 induced learning crisis and possible drop outs from schools.
Increased allocation is also needed to reduce the huge gap of digital divide, the said.
They said this while talking at a discussion arranged by Campaign for Popular Education (Campe), and sought at least 20 percent budget allocation for the education sector.
Campe deputy director KM Enamul Hoque, during keynote presentation, demanded for ensuring transparency in the budget implementation.
Efforts are needed to improve alternative education and distance learning systems, he said. He also demanded "stimulus package" for the education sector.
While the government and MPO-supported teachers and institutions have been receiving their regular payment, others are falling into distress without any help, except a token amount for the non-MPO teachers.
Many private education institutions are disappearing and teachers leaving the profession in search of livelihood, he added.
Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation Chairman Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said the last budget amid Covid-19 crisis was a traditional one.
If the upcoming budget remains as usual, it will be difficult to overcome the crisis in the education sector, he said, while presiding over the webinar.
He proposed short, medium and long term plans to fulfill the education losses due to the Covid-19 situation. "If we cannot recover the education sector, we will not be able to have a sustainable development," he added.
Campe executive director Rasheda K Choudhury said education must not be deprioritised in planning and financing. "We are heading toward a learning catastrophe from learning crisis," she said.
Brac University Prof Emeritus Manzoor Ahmed suggested that schools should be reopened in phases.
Veteran teacher leader Quazi Faruque Ahmed stressed on determining the learning loss due to the pandemic.
Lawmaker Aroma Dutta said many sectors couldn't fully utilise their allocation for the outgoing fiscal year. A step can be taken to relocate this unutilised money to the education sector.
ActionAid Bangladesh country director Farah Kabir said there is a rural and urban divide in the education sector. "Many students are suffering for lack of access; we should prepare a plan keeping that in mind," she said.
Several discussants including students and teachers said the government should ensure digital devices and uninterrupted internet service for students.
Secondary and Higher Education Division secretary Mahbub Hossain said all should work together in advancing the education sector. He said he would talk about some of the recommendations made at the event with the policy makers.
Planning Minister MA Mannan also said some of the proposals including reopening schools in phases were good and they will discuss about those.