Investments in girls' education need to be increased

Speakers said that non-government organisations should be allowed to participate in government planning

From write left corner, Rasheda K Chowdhury, Lutfun Nessa Khan, Dilara Zahid and Musharraf Tansen
Prothom Alo

Separate area-based plans need to be adopted to prevent girls from dropping out from educational institutions as a climate change fallout. Investments in girls’ education need to be increased. Keeping the natural disasters in mind, separate academic calendars have to be implemented. 

Consulting locals, effective steps have to be taken in char, haor, coastal and hill-tract areas to solve the issue. And, participation of non-government organisations have to be allowed in government planning.

Speakers said these at a roundtable titled ‘Impacts of climate change on girls’ education and our responsibilities’ held at Prothom Alo office in the capital’s Karwan Bazar on Monday.

With support from Malala Foundation, the roundtable was jointly organised by Disable, Rehabilitation and Research Association (DRRA), People’s Oriented Programme Implementation (POPI) and Prothom Alo.

Former adviser to the caretaker government and executive director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), Rasheda K Chowdhury said climate change is having a negative impact on girls’ education and reproductive health. It is in fact shrinking women and girl children’s scope for work. 

Non-government organisations (NGO) can assume an assisting role in remote areas that are beyond the government’s reach. But these days the scope for NGOs to speak or participate on the planning level has shrunk as the government includes them only in implementation, she added.

While making any plans, people of the respective areas also have to be involved. She called for the formation of a parliamentary caucus to fight the impacts of climate change.

Member of parliamentary standing committee on women and children ministry, Lutfun Nessa Khan said that the government is running different campaigns to prevent girls’ from dropping out and to stop child marriage.

She told the roundtable that the government has adopted a 100-year delta plan. Once it is implemented, it will benefit against the damaging impacts of climate change. No plans will be adopted without quality assurance.

There are no issues with the government’s policies, planning and allocations. In many cases, people given certain responsibilities do not carry out their duties properly and that’s the problem, she remarked.

Highlighting the research experience, director of the institute of disaster management and vulnerability studies, Dilaara Zahid, stated that schools remain closed for 30 days because of natural disasters according to data of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).

However, last year during the flood in Sunamganj it was noticed that students couldn’t attend schools for a long period due to various reasons, including schools being inundated for up to 15-20 days, schools being cleaned after the water had receded, books being ruined and problems with going to school for the roads not being repaired.

Taking these into consideration, steps should be taken to construct such school buildings that are protected from flood water, create special curriculum and implement an emergency education system in those areas, she emphasised.

Country director of Malala Fund in Bangladesh, Musharraf Tansen stressed on providing girls with proper education to reduce the damaging impacts of climate change. He said that Malala Fund has been working throughout the world with the aim that every single girl child can safely complete 12 years of free schooling.

Admission rate in primary schools is high in the country. But, over 40 per cent of the dropped out students in secondary school are girls. The dropout rate in coastal, char and haor regions are even higher, he pointed out.

Professor of women and gender studies department at the Dhaka University, Tania Haque said that women and children are affected the most in any disaster. Alongside financial damages, impacts of climate change cause a lot of social damages as well.

As an easy solution to financial crises and security issues, families turn their girl children into child brides. She called for arranging scholarships on government and non-government initiatives to prevent girls' dropping out of schools and their parents sacrificing their girl child's education, she insisted.

Executive director of DRRA, Farida Yesmin said that families are reluctant to invest in girls’ education. Girl children with disabilities face even more educational threats. It is noticed that it becomes tough for them to continue studies after fifth standard as they have to rely on someone else for movement.

She added that inclusive investment in char, haor, coastal and hill-tract areas has to be increased to combat the climate change-related threats. Apart from inter-ministerial coordination, initiatives involving government and non-government partnership have to be adopted in these cases.

Hill Women’s Federation general secretary Ilira Dewan argued that development initiatives taken for plains, haor and char regions won’t work for the hill-tract. So, before adopting any development plan for a region, problems should be identified after consulting the local people.

POPI executive director, Morshed Alam Sarkar believes there should be a separate academic calendar in areas that are facing the impacts of climate change. He said that in haor regions, children cannot go to schools during harvesting season as they work in crop fields.

His organisation runs 13 floating schools in the haor regions. The government should come forward to increase the number of floating schools in the area. Plus, floating health clinics are required too, he observed.

Plan International Bangladesh director (policy, advocacy, influencing and campaign) Nishath Sultana said, as an impact of climate change girls are dropping out of school, they are being married off early, health risks are on the rise, earning scopes for women are shrinking and they are falling victims to violence.

When poverty strikes families take their daughters out of schools to cut down on the expenses. Investments have to be increased to hold girls back in schools, she added.

UNICEF Bangladesh’s education expert Shamima Siddiki said that UNICEF has adopted an alternative curriculum keeping the impacts of climate change in mind.

This way, skills of girls’ still in schools will be made sharper on locally available matters while, girls dropped out of schools will be made capable of joining self-sufficient or pleasant tasks through training.

DRRA advisor Swapna Reza, founder and chief executive officer Ritu Sharmin Kabir also spoke at the roundtable.

While delivering the opening speech, Prothom Alo associate editor Abdul Quayum said that due to high salinity level in coastal areas, women have to collect drinking water with difficulties. It has turned into a critical problem. Prothom Alo assistant editor, Firoz Choudhury moderated the roundtable.

Also Read