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Kindergartens yet to heal pandemic bruise

They demand stimulus to continue activities

Published : 25 Sep 2021 10:07 PM | Updated : 26 Sep 2021 02:17 PM

Schools and colleges in the country have resumed academic activities after 18 months of suspension for Covid-19 pandemic, but thousands of kindergartens are still uncertain whether they can return to operation again.

According to sources, around 10,000 kindergartens, out of a total of around 60,000 in the capital, have ended their operation due to pandemic-induced financial crisis with little chance of resumption of their activities.

They said the owners and teachers of most of these institutions have already changed their profession with many others leading a miserable life and some others on way to try their luck in other professions.

Sources said many kindergartens are still trying to reopen with the least manpower and logistics. But, they have been quite unsuccessful to gather even 50 percent of the total students.

Educational institutions suspended their operation in early 2020 as per a government decision after deadly COVID-19 spread across Bangladesh.

The long suspension of operation led to the closure of numerous kindergartens, particularly those in rented properties, as they could not pay the rentals and salary to their teachers and other staff. 

Internationally, kindergartens are preschool educational institutions, but in Bangladesh, some kindergartens offer elementary education and some others operate up to 10th grade.

Dawn Dew Kindergarten School in the capital’s Pirerbag, Mirpur was last opened in March, last year. In the meantime, the school authorities have gone through multiple crises and could not open with others on September 12, when schools and colleges resumed operation following a government decision.

The frustration of the authorities is clear as headmaster Shajeda Alam told the Bangladesh Post, “I had to borrow money from several sources to pay the rent and salary. The borrowing has recently crossed Tk 500,000.”

“I cannot think of making a livelihood now for the huge debts I have on me. It’s frustrating to see my beloved institution desolate and empty,” she added.

Meanwhile, a few of these pre-schools have reopened recently, following the government’s decision to reopen educational institutions. But they lack a sizeable number of students while some teachers have already quit their jobs.

Scholars Pre-Cadet School in East Jurain has resumed classroom activities but now it almost looks the same as it did amid the closure, empty. There is hardly any student attending class, while the same goes for the teachers.

While talking to Bangladesh Post, headmaster of the school Saiful Islam said, “We’re not a large school and used to have around 120 students before the pandemic. The sufferings were the same for us, like most of the kindergartens. But we’ve reopened from September 12.”

“Many of the students with their parents left Dhaka during the pandemic. We could contact 92 of the students to bring them back to the classrooms. However, only a maximum of 10 to 12 students are coming in the last few days,” added Saiful sorrowfully.

Yet, the authorities are keeping the school open and continue to expect more students.

When several irregular students were contacted, it was found many of them have either changed schools or shifted to a madrasa while some others are yet to decide what to do staying at home. In addition, a few others have even been married off at such premature age or got engaged in child labour.

Alik Hasan, a fourth-grader of Paramount Kindergarten at Mipur, has recently gotten admitted to madrasa, after his family left Dhaka to their village home last year, when the pandemic had its most adverse effect.

According to the sources, the number of students in the kindergartens, after reopening from September 12, has decreased by 50 to 60 percent. It goes without saying that there are hardly newly admitted students. Around 30-40 percent of students are paying their tuition fees regularly. With that, many schools pay their office expenses and electricity bill.

According to the Bangladesh Kindergarten School and College Oikko Parishad, kindergarten schools cover more than 40 percent of the total primary and pre-school education. 

Many owners and teachers have left the school as they could not afford the rent; some have left the rented house and started living with their families on the school premises.

Khandakar Hafizur Rahman Sayed, Chairman of Bangladesh Kindergarten Owners’ Association, an organisation working for the kindergartens in the country, has urged the government to come forward for changing the situation. 

He told the Bangladesh Post, “The affected owners are looking forward to government support or stimulus package so that they could resume the activities of these schools and not close any more school.”