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School drop-outs turning labourers

Published : 14 Jun 2021 10:31 PM

Md Imran, aged 14 from Kishoreganj, is now a street vendor from a happy school going teenager, before Covid-19 shattered his dreams like those of innumerable school goers last year.

Imram now sells lemonade from his handcart at Mohakhali in Dhaka after being sent off to the capital by his parents. His father, a local bus driver, felt it quite difficult to run the family without any earning as a ban was imposed on transport as a part of the lockdown.

Like Imran, a number of teenagers and even children are found in every nook and corner in cities across the country, mostly in Dhaka hawking and selling stuff in bags or handcarts.

Students, especially young learners in the country, are in jeopardy of having both mental and physical growth in shambles since all types of educational institutions have been closed since March 17 last year due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

According to UNESCO, educational institutions in more than 190 countries were closed at the culmination of the pandemic. It affected 1.6 billion students, about 94 percent of the world's students. Moreover, educational institutions are closed in 23 countries for the time being.

Bangladesh is one of the countries to have kept educational institutions closed for the longest time. About four crore students are being affected due to the closure of educational institutions for more than a year, says UNESCO.

Particularly ostracized are those of lower class and lower middle-class families in the villages and city slums. Experts say, of these students from poverty-stricken families, most have been dropping out of school and being entering child marriage and risky labor more than ever before in most recent months.

Babul Akter, a resident aged 12 of Chalantika slum in Dhaka's Mirpur, fell into crisis with his family at the beginning of the first imposed lockdown last year. After his mother lost the job as a housemaid, and his father as a shop owner, the student of a 'non-local free school' in Mirpur took a job in an embroidery factory to support his family.

When asked how many dropped out of the schools during this pandemic period, Rasheda K Choudhury, Executive Director Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) told Bangladesh Post recently, "We had a survey ongoing till November last year. However, it was clogged later due to restrictions for the pandemic.” 

CAMPE mentioned last year that 40 percent of children would drop out for the shutdown due to the dreaded virus.

In recent times, officials of Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (BANBEIS) have been engaged on a study to find out the rate of students gone out of educational activities during the pandemic period. They are likely to reveal the findings in a month, said Nur Mohammad, Statistical Officer of BANBEIS to Bangladesh Post recently. 

Despite the ongoing remote learning activities through online classes and assignments, 56 percent of fifth graders are participating in television classes, according to a survey by the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education. Therefore, about half of the students are still out of class.

Meanwhile, a study findings revealed last month said that some 19% of primary and 25% of secondary school-going children are at risk of learning loss as educational institutions in the country have remained shut since March last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was jointly conducted by Power and Participation Research Center (PPRC) and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) of BRAC University.

According to government data released in 2019, the dropout rate at the primary level was around 18 percent and it was close to 35 percent at the secondary level while in 2017, it was 21 percent and 46 percent respectively. Experts predict that the results will change drastically in the years ongoing and the ones yet to come.