This correspondent has visited 10 primary schools several times over the past two and a half months to learn about the state of education, environment and crisis at the primary schools in Dhaka city. Each school is found to have different problems including crisis of classrooms, playground grabbed and lack of human resources. A similar scenario was found that even teachers do not enroll their children at the government primary school until they are compelled to do so. It was also found 14 children of the teachers from seven government schools studying at primary level. Among those, two children study at the government primary schools.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, a mother of a student studying class 4 at Government Primary School in Motijheel said her husband is a van puller and they cannot run their family well with his earning. Had she had the capacity she would have enrolled her daughter at a kindergarten or a better school, the woman added.

Garbage beside Bonoful school

According to the Dhaka district’s primary education office, there are 342 primary schools in Dhaka city. One such school is Bonoful Government Primary School in Mirpur’s Pallabi. The school has a tin-shed brick-built building and a playground. Locals dump waste at a place just next to the school and teaching continues amid odour.

Teachers said there were 300 students at the school several years ago. Now the number has dropped to 120 and there are five teachers.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, headmaster Majeda Akter said many students left the school due to lack of a better atmosphere and half of the current students do not attend the class.

Banglabazar school is closed

Banglabazar Government Primary School is located on 63 Paridas Road in Dhaka. The school was nationalised in 1973. Since there is no name plaque, it is difficult to draw attention of the people to this institution. Locals said the school has remained closed since a crack developed on the roof of the school on 3 March 2019. At that time, there were 30 students and 4 teachers.

Visiting the school, chairs and tables were seen lying untidy on the floor. Dirt is everywhere; lichen grows on wall. There are two teachers at the school and they do not need to take classes.

Assistant teacher Sadia Afrin Mou said she and headmaster Shahnaj Parvin are still at the school while the remaining two teachers are on deputation at another school.

Motejheel Government Primary School

There are about 1,400 students and 23 teachers at the school. Teachers said there are no peon, cleaner and security guard. Burglary occurs often. Projector, laptop, computer and CCTV cameras were stolen during the school closure amid the coronavirus pandemic. Drug addicts gather at the school premises at night.

Headmaster Nur Jahan Hamida said children of low-income families, shopkeepers and small traders study at this school. Several children from rich families enroll here at the beginning of the year to make their way for the admission to other neighbouring schools. There is a necessity of teachers and at least they need cleaners to keep the toilets clean, the headmaster added.

Multi-storied building on school ground

The Champa-Parul Government Primary School was established at Mirpur 2 in 1974. According to its teachers, the school had 11.5 Katha of land. Now its building is on the land of four Katha. Its playground has been grabbed. Assistant teacher Suraiya Majumdar told Prothom Alo students could not play game, as the playground has been grabbed. Two cases are pending over the land and the grabbers have constructed building on the playground and lived in it.

Teachers further said there are officially about 200 students at the school but the attendance is less than 40 per cent. Teacher Suraiya Majumdar said people think kindergarten and private schools teach better so guardians do not want to enroll their children at government primary schools. Since there is no peon, teachers have to do everything and theft takes place often as there is no security guard, she added.

Two schools on a building

Suritola Government Primary School and Ramna Railway High School is located on the same building in Old Dhaka. The primary school is on the ground floor and the high school is on the third floor. Teachers said they often face hassle to take class due to lack of space.

There are 643 students at Suritola Government Primary School and there are 13 teachers out of 16 positions. Some 10-11 teachers are regular at the school. Headmaster Ishrat Jahan told Prothom Alo the attendance rate was 85 per cent before the pandemic and it dropped to 60 per cent after the pandemic. There is no way to bring back the students who dropped out.

There is a big playground at the school but car, pickup, rickshaw and van remain parked most of the time there. Wishing anonymity, an assistant teacher said political and social functions are often organised in the hall room on the ground floor, destroying the school atmosphere.

People concerned said Ramna Railway Primary School started in the capital’s Osmani Uddyan in 1975. It was relocated to Suritola Government Primary School building in 1989. The school is listed with Directorate of Primary Education but its teachers said it is a non-government school now.

‘No educational atmosphere’

There are 340 students and 14 teachers at Dhanmondi 1-no Government Primary School. A water pump of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA) has been installed on the school land. The problem is about the atmosphere of the institutions. Teachers alleged there is no education atmosphere at the school due to disturbance by outsiders.

Headmaster Fahima Sultana said outsiders roam free at the school anytime. Previously, two or three students received scholarship at the school now no brilliant students want to enroll here.

Besides, Dhanmondi Law College operates from three classrooms and an administrative room of the school.

Old but gloomy

The Khilgaon Government Primary School was established in 1928. It is an old school and taught student a better education. Locals said education of the school looks gloomy now. There are 300 students and 8 teachers at the school.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, headmaster Nasrin Sultana said there are no peon and security guard at the school. A maid does all the work. They sought manpower from the authorities concerned but received no response, she added.

Locals said children of most of the people study at non-government schools like National Ideal School, Shaheed Babul Academy, Faizur Rahman Ideal Institute and South Point School. Quality of education was better at Khilgaon Government Primary School once and there were not much private educational institutions either.

They study at private schools

The Khilgaon Government Colony Primary School was established for the education of the government service holders’ children. Their children do not study here; rather they go to the neighbouring non-government schools.

There are about 600 students and 14 teachers at Khilgaon Government Colony Primary School. Headmaster Khaleda Akando told Prothom Alo children of small vendors, hawkers and people with other low-income professions study at their school.

Dropout

There was common scenario of dropout at these 10 primary schools in Dhaka after school reopened across the country on 12 September 2021 following a closure for 18 months. Primary schools saw at 62 per cent of attendance in Dhaka on that day. According to the Dhaka district’s primary education office, the attendance was 68 per cent on 29 September last year.

Dhaka district’s primary education officer Aleya Ferdousi told Prothom Alo the main problem of the government primary schools in Dhaka is that children of low-income working class people study here. Many of these guardians left the city losing their job in the impact of coronavirus. So, a portion of the students joined work.

What do experts and guardians say?

In Dhaka, there are many non-government schools being operated after taking lease of two or three floors. Some kindergartens also pay less to the teachers. There is no playground. Despite this, guardians admit their children at these schools spending more.

Low-income families are reluctant to enroll their children at the government primary schools that have playground as well as teachers receiving salary from the government. People concerned said government schools lack management and monitoring.

Taposh Kumar Biswas, professor of pre-primary and primary education department of Institute of Education and Research (IER), University of Dhaka, told Prothom Alo better education, result and atmosphere as well as taking special care to students would bring back confidence and trust among guardians.

Guardians said they have to spend more for their children studying at private institutions. It creates pressure on family. But they admit their children at a ‘better school’ for the sake of a better future.

Salma Islam from Dhaka’s Mirpur said she spent Tk 21,000 for the admission of her class 1 child and paid Tk 2,000 in tuition a month. Other than this, private school charges for various reasons.

“I want to enroll my child at a government primary school. But it is necessary to make the atmosphere and quality of education better,” she said adding, “I watched in the news several days ago that the government school in India’s Delhi has been changed and such initiative is also necessary in our country.”

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna

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