The economic disruption coupled with the closure of educational institutions due to the coronavirus pandemic could raise dropout at schools since many families, mostly lower-income groups, have been sending their children out for work.
Experts believe that the coronavirus is not only pushing children into the labor market but also depriving children of much more including education.
“The lower income group people are the worst hit by the virus outbreak. These families do not even ensure afford make end meets for their children,” said economist Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem.
“So, they are sending their children to the labor market to earn some extras. Thus, it will result in a significant dropout at schools in the post-pandemic period,” he added.
Over the years, Bangladesh has significantly reduced dropout rate at the primary level from 40 percent in 2009 to 18 percent in 2018.
However, the dropout rate is still too high for secondary (37.6 percent) and post-secondary education (19.6 percent), according to Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (BANBEIS).
The World Economic Forum also warned to a significant rise in the school dropout numbers as schools are shut in 146 countries due to the spread of the global pandemic.
A daily wage-earner, Awal told this correspondent that two out of his three children went to schools. The pandemic has stopped his earnings and shut the kid’s schools too.
Now he sends his children for work so they can contribute to family, said Awal who resides in the capital’s Rampur area.
Asked why he decided it Awal replied, “I am the lone earning source of my family. As the virus (outbreak) reduced my earnings, I cannot mange everything alone like I did it before”.
According to United Nations, child labour decreased by 94 million since 2000, but that gain is now at risk. Thanks to the pandemic.
The Covid-19 crisis may push millions more children into child labour, including in countries like Bangladesh, India, Brazil and Mexico, according to a report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNICEF titled ‘COVID-19 and child labour: A time of crisis, a time to act' released on mid-June.
“In times of crisis, child labour becomes a coping mechanism for many families,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“As poverty rises, schools close and the availability of social services decreases, more children are pushed into the workforce.
“As we re-imagine the world post-Covid, we need to make sure that children and their families have the tools they need to weather similar storms in the future. Quality education, social protection services, and better economic opportunities can be game changers.”
In 2018, 258 million children of primary and secondary school age were out of school. Now, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, 1.2 billion children find themselves out of school, at least physically, the report said.
Economist Moazzem, however, urged the government to safeguard the low-income group people so that their financial hardship does not worsen further.
Government should extend its relief and financial aid to help them survive the pandemic, suggested Moazzem, who is a research director at the private-think tank Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).