Strong steps needed to make up losses in children's education

Prothom Alo illustration

The report of UNICEF and UNESCO released on 19 October highlighting the state of child education in the country, is a matter of concern. According to the report, ‘Situation Analysis on the Effects and Responses to Covid-19 on the Education Sector in Asia’, the education of 37 million children in Bangladesh has been disrupted because of school closure since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020. The report highlighted the continued impact of the pandemic on children’s education and various government’s programmes and initiatives to respond to it.

While presenting the report, Marcoluigi Corsi, UNICEF regional director for East Asia and Pacific appropriately, said when schools remain closed, children miss out on the biggest opportunity to learn and develop to their full potential. The future of an entire generation is at stake; therefore, we need all-out efforts to ensure a safe reopening of schools as soon as possible.

A UNICEF-supported study by the Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) showed that two out of three pre-primary to higher secondary students in Bangladesh were not reached through remote education during pandemic. That means two-thirds of the students did not get the online education opportunity. The lack of material resources and support to access technology are the reasons behind this. UNICEF and the UNESCO observed education budgets will need to be increased by an average of 10 per cent to recover such losses if Asia is to achieve the education targets of the UN 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals in the next nine years.

We must admit that the loss in education caused by the pandemic is much more and lasts longer than that of other sectors. The education of the students from insolvent families has been disrupted and bringing them back to classroom is the big challenge. Many school girls have been married off; boys have been compelled to join work to assist their families. It will be the main responsibility of the government to make arrangements to bring these children back to the schools. If necessary, a list will have to be prepared properly and financial assistance will have to be provided to those families accordingly so that they can send their children to schools. Besides, distance learning or online education will have to be ensured for all. Nobody knows when the pandemic will end. So, we have to prepare in advance.

In this case, we think the recommendation made by UNICEF and UNESCO for the government, the donor partners and the private sector it work together, is very important. It will not be possible for the government to tackle this challenge alone. No matter how must be boast about the expansion, our budget allocation in the education sector is still the lowest in South Asia. Transparency and accountability must be ensured along with an increased budget. Development of education does not imply constructing high rise buildings. It means bringing all children under education programmes and making them sound citizens. There is no alternative to taking up sustainable and effective measures to recover the pandemic-time loss in education and ensure education for all children.