More allocation is needed in the upcoming national budget for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-2021 to recover the loss in education sector due to the Covid-19 outbreak, experts said.
They also suggested to offer special allocation in the budget to tackle dropout, ensuring payment of non-government teachers and developing facilities for meeting such crises in future.
“In the coming FY we demand at least 15 percent allocation of the national budget for the education sector for taking immediate and three-year-long intervention programmes,” Executive Director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) and former primary and mass education ministry adviser to the caretaker government Rasheda K Chowdhury said.
The allocation, in education in the national budget of FY 2019-200, was 11.62 per cent when the present dropout rate at the primary level was 18 per cent and at the secondary level the rate was at 40 per cent, according to government officials.
Experts, educationalists and NGO activists participated at a webinar discussion regarding the effect of corona in education and investment in risk mitigation organised by CAMPE on Wednesday.
They said the incidence of drop out from educational institutions, child marriage, child labour and malnutrition will increase due to coronavirus outbreak. Kindergarten, private educational institutions and non-MPO teachers are in risk as many of them are not getting salary.
They demanded enhancement of the stipend from Tk 150 to Tk 300 for every students, increase of the coverage of the midday meal at the schools and more social safety-net and incentive coverage for bringing back all students to schools.
Rasheda K Chowdhury, who conducted the webinar, said, there would be an increase in dropouts which would contribute to the rise various social problems like increase of the child labour, early marriage and others.
If required, she said, the government should cut allocation from the development programmes such as developing power plants and allocate the fund for education, health and social safety net programmes.
“Mega development projects don’t have urgency. But if the education and health sectors collapse, the nation will have to suffer,” she continued.
“We must address the dropout crisis, besides continuing to facilitate lessons to a wider range of the pupils using different modes and apps. We must develop the quality of education as well,” she added.
BRAC University professor emeritus Manzoor Ahmed said, “The poverty line is on the rise due to coronavirus. Proper utilisation of the allocated budget should be ensured at a time. Over the years we saw a significant amount of money refunded by the ministries and agencies for not being able to use those.”
He demanded a block allocation of Tk 500 crore in the national budget for mitigating emergency crises created in the education sector.
“Simultaneously, we must take preparations following the WHO and UNICEF guidelines for opening education institutes,” he suggested adding that the class duration should also be increased for making up the losses.
Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) research director Khandokar Golam Moazzem said that the services of the NGOs in the education would reduce for shortage of fund amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Non-government schools will also face serious troubles to continue operations. So the government must address all these issues,” he said.
Directorate of primary education director general Md Fashiullah told Bangladesh Post, “The government has taken several initiatives to mitigate Covid-19-induced crises. We are making a list of extremely poor students through upazila administration. The number of beneficiaries and the amount of money will be increased gradually.”
He also said, “We have been trying in various ways so that a single student does not dropout form education. The stipend money has been increased during this Corona crisis. The duration of the stipend scheme has also been extended.”