A staggering 77 percent of the government primary schools do not have Shaheed Minar, a monument where students can pay homage to the martyrs of the Language Movement.
The Directorate of Primary Education (DPE), while preparing its annual report, recently came up with the data revealing that in some districts over 90 percent of state-run primary schools have no language monument.
Teachers and education officers cited a lack of funds as one of the main reasons for schools not having a language memorial. For schools located in cities space is the main constraint, they said.
All public and private schools in the country remain open on February 21, the International Mother Language Day to mark the historic Language Movement of 1952. People from all walks of life commemorate the day by placing wreaths at their local language memorials.
However, students of the schools without Shaheed Minar only perform cultural activities and sometimes build makeshift monuments to pay homage to the martyrs of the Language Movement, informed students, teachers and education officers.
Students of Champa Parul Government Primary School in the capital's Mirpur area told this correspondent that there is no Shaheed Minar at their school for observing the Language Martyrs' Day.
Mohammad Rahim, a 4th-grader of Champa Parul, said they come to school on February 21 and take part in some cultural activities but cannot pay homage to language martyrs.
Suraiya Majumdar, a teacher of the school, which has 283 students, said there is no available space on their school compound to set up a Shaheed Minar.
Champa Parul is not an isolated case; 71 percent of the 10,930 government primary schools in Dhaka division do not have a Shaheed Minar.
Chattogram has the highest number of public primary schools without a Shaheed Minar, which accounts for 86 percent of all state-run elementary institutions in the region.
Of the eight divisions, Mymensingh has the lowest percentage of schools without a replica of the iconic monument.
Among the districts, 96 percent of the 999 government primary schools of Thakurgaon do not have any Shaheed Minar.
In Bhola and Meherpur, 95 percent out of a total of 1,048 and 92 percent out of 309 public primary schools, respectively, are without a language monument.
However, Bhola district Primary Education Officer Nikhil Chandra Haldar and Meherpur district Primary Education Officer Fozleh Rahman opined that setting up a Shaheed Minar at schools should be mandatory.
"If a Shaheed Minar is set up inside a school, students can see it daily and acquire knowledge about the language movement besides learning about it from their textbook," Fozleh said.
"But there is no allocation from the government to build such memorials," he added.
WHY WE NEED SHAHEED MINAR AT SCHOOLS
Activists of the Language Movement and educationists emphasised the need for Shaheed Minars in schools to encourage students to learn about the history of the movement and obtain a clear understanding about its significance.
Educational institutions across the country were the breeding grounds for the Language Movement, said Language Movement veteran Ahmad Rafiq.
There should be a Shaheed Minar at all educational institutions, he stressed.
"Children will come to know the history of the Language Movement and the memorial will instil patriotism among them from their childhood," he added.
Blaming the apathy of authorities, he said people in the education sector think that there is no need to remember the Language Movement's history as Bangla has already earned the status of a state language.
Dhaka University Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury said, "It is unfortunate that so many schools do not have a Shaheed Minar. The Language Movement is an event that is a symbol and source of inspiration for all nationalistic and democratic struggle and the Liberation War of Bangladesh.
"People are gradually forgetting the dignity and significance of the Language Movement. As there is hardly any learning of history, they no longer consider the Shaheed Minar as a symbol of pride. This is not an isolated incident. Rather, it is a manifestation of their attitude towards it," he added.
Meanwhile, DPE officials told The Daily Star that they are thinking of establishing Shaheed Minar at all government primary schools.
"We will set up Shaheed Minars at all schools and school authorities can spend money from the grants they get under the School Level Improvement Plan given by the DPE," said DPE Director General Md Fashiullah.
The language movement began in 1948 and reached its climax on February 21, 1952, when police firing killed several protesters, who were demanding that Bangla be one of the state languages of Pakistan. Bangla was later adopted as a state language of Pakistan.
In 2000, Unesco declared February 21 as the International Mother Language Day to celebrate the ethno-linguistic rights of people around the world and pay tribute to the martyrs of the Language Movement.