With schools and other educational institutions remaining closed for an extended span of time due to the coronavirus outbreak, there are apprehensions of girl students stopping out in high numbers. The success of bringing girls to school, through much efforts and endeavours, going from house to house to motivate the people, is now at risk. Given this situation, speakers at a virtual dialogue organised by BRAC has urged for action at a government and non-government level to bring girl students back to school.
The BRAC dialogue was held on Sunday afternoon in observation of the International Day of the Girl Child.
Speaking as chief guest at the event, education minister Dipu Moni said that in view of the coronavirus situation, teachers were now conducting classes for students over radio, television and mobile phones. The students must be given the knowledge required so that they can adjust without difficulty when they are promoted to the next class. A concise syllabus is being prepared for that purpose. Hopefully, by mid November-December classes will be conducted within 30 working days for students to be taught in keeping with this syllabus.
By 2022 emphasis will be placed on work-centered education at a school level. Vocational training will be included in the syllabus from Class 6 to 8 and in Classes 9 and 10. Polytechnic institutes for girls will be opened in every division
During the dialogue, the issue of schools reopening in 105 countries around the world was raised and the education minister was asked whether the government had any plans of reopening schools and also what initiative was the government taking to make up for lost time.
The education minister said, during this global crisis, the most importance was attached to life. After that comes livelihood. She pointed out that in the countries where schools had opened up, there were much less students in the classrooms there compared to here. However, with concerted efforts at a government and non-government level, the impact of this school closure can be overcome.
She said, by 2022 emphasis will be placed on work-centered education at a school level. Vocational training will be included in the syllabus from Class 6 to 8 and in Classes 9 and 10. Polytechnic institutes for girls will be opened in every division.
At the dialogue it was said that while there was success in enrolling huge numbers of girls at the primary school level, the rate of child marriage was high too. On one hand 99 per cent of the girl children were enrolled at a primary education level, yet on the other, Bangladesh ranked among the top 10 countries in the world where child marriage was prevalent. And 42 per cent of the girls dropped out before they reached Class 10.
Addressing the dialogue, former caretaker government adviser Rasheda K Choudhury said that more attention needed to be paid to girls as they dropped out of school more. Girls must be brought back to school. But first the educational institutions must be equipped to deal with the risks. The huge population cannot be placed at risk. Calling upon the guardians, she said, “When the educational institutions are ready to open, please send your children to school.”
Long-distance education was a very temporary arrangement. The country did not have the required digital network
Member of parliament Aroma Dutta said, from the experience of the education crisis during the coronavirus times, stress must be placed on work-oriented and technical education. And child marriage is not just linked to poverty, there is a matter of mindset too. Many parents think, what is the use of educating girls?
Dean of Dhaka University’s social science faculty, Sadeka Halim, said that education was linked to livelihood. During the coronavirus pandemic, 43 per cent of the people were falling under the poverty line. These families included school, college and university students. At a school level alone this rate was 72 per cent. So it is a matter of concern as to whether these families will be interested in investing in girls’ education.
The many years of effort made for girls’ education, is now at risk, commented BRAC’s executive director Asif Saleh. He said that long-distance education was a very temporary arrangement. The country did not have the required digital network. Along with a crisis in education, a social crisis had also emerged.
Educational institutions, he said, could be opened up in phases with concerted government and non-government efforts. Educational institutions in areas where the transmission of the virus was less, could be opened up first.
Additional commissioner of Chattogram Metropolitan Police (CMP) Amena Begum said, girls can call the 999 hotline in the case of any violence. The CMP blog presented various way and means to safeguard oneself against violence. The guardians can follow that.
She said, the guardians should be made aware of the bad effects of child marriage, without bothering to make the girls self reliant.
First secretary (development) of the Australian high commission, Simon Buckley, said that girls needed to be given the opportunity to make their voices heard in all sectors, including at the educational institutions. He said the social media had no control and so the guardians needed to be alert that their girls were secure there and not subject to harassment. Health needed to be kept in mind when opening educational institutions. Steps must be taken to make up the lost studies for the students.
The social development adviser to the British High Commission in Dhaka, Tahera Jabeen, said if girls are to be brought back to school, concerted efforts must be made for girls’ education. Strong steps would have to be taken against all sorts of violence against women.
The dialogue on ‘Girls must be brought back to school’, was moderated by BRAC’s the BRAC’s director of Gender, Justice and Diversity, Nobonita Chowdhury.