My wife was asking me to find a government primary school adjacent to our home (Rampura) to get the boy who works as a domestic helper of our house enrolled to receive education comparatively a cheap rate. I failed to give her the exact information which finally led her to get the boy enrolled in a NGO run school in class four. This incident coupled with the request of a journalist friend to write an article on the government primary school situation of this mega city. I started searching for the necessary information on the website but no such recent information is available there. However, I inserted some old information regarding the government primary school situation of the city spiced with my comments, ideas and recommendations.
The education that facilitates the children of 6-11 years age group to amplify their mental behavior and attitude is called Primary Education. This primary education is the fundamental of all education (Source Universalizing Quality Primary Education in Bangladesh by Jalauddin K.A. and Chowdhury R.M. Mustafa.) According to UN a person aged 18 years or less is termed as a child. In Bangladesh it is 16 or less. But in this country, access to all kinds of education is still a’ chance not yet rights. The system, quality and advancement of education are not enhanced according to the needs of the citizens. According to the Child Education and Literacy survey 1997, conducted by the Primary and Mass Education Ministry, the overall literacy rate of 7 years or above in Bangladesh is about 47.3 percent (Female 41.5prcent and male 50.6 percent). The gap between urban and rural areas is very significant, rural 41 percent and urban 59.9 percent. The reasons of lower literacy rate in rural areas are poverty, lack of awareness, lack of interest in education and superstition and no definite aim or gain lying before them through education. Though the rate of education is higher in urban areas, this is limited within the higher and middle income group. The people living in slums still prove lower literacy rate. A joint study of Asian Development Bank and Planning Commission, GoB in 1995-96 revealed that 61.3 percent of urban population is below poverty line and out of them 40.2 percent are staying below the hard-core poverty line. As a result the poor families are more willing to engage their children in jobs rather than sending to school.
It is a fact that the status of government primary schools is very poor and negligible in Dhaka city, which is renowned as the most resourceful area for all sorts of education of the country. Baker (2007) reports that 26 percent of slums in Dhaka have a government school and 27 percent have an NGO school operated According to the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education (MOPME) Dhaka city accommodates 295 government primary schools. We know about one crore and thirty lac people live in this mega city. So, only 295 government primary schools prove to be extremely poor number comparing to the huge population. Giving education to the citizens is the sacred responsibility of any democratic government. We cannot expect to go ahead avoiding this solemn responsibility or to rest on other entities. Even if other entities like NGOs or private sectors try to spread primary education among the poor and slum dwellers government should have a strong mechanism to coordinate the whole affair. But unfortunately it remains quite absent which has created scope for getting kindergarten schools commercially to extend education facilities only for the affluent people. What about the middle income and low income group who find it extremely difficult to get their children educated in the primary level.
We hardly see any government primary school in a proper place in the city. No guardian except the hardcore poor tend to send their children to government primary school as there lies every doubt to receive any education there. The government primary school in the city must have a different set of teachers, infrastructure, supervision; education facilities etc. to vie with the schools established every nook and corner of the city to attract the guardians to send their wards there. Governed primary school teachers of Dhaka city must have huge incentives to perform their professional duties quite differently from the rural teachers. Special and regular training along with refreshers and monitoring must be there to give a quality education. Giving quality education to the poor and hard-core poor of the city is the duty of the government and receiving education by them is their right.
When government primary schools are not set up for the slum dwellers, they get deprived of receiving government books and other education materials meant for the poor. NGOs are also not covering all the slums. In this age of internet our slum dwellers and the children of the disadvantaged populace will remain uneducated does not sound good.
Infrastructure development like increasing number of classrooms, hygienic toilet, and drinking water facilities need to be ensured in the already established government primary schools in the city. Some studies revealed these facilities deplorable. A further jerk in this sector can bring some positive changes. Proper in-service training, monitoring mechanism should be developed. It is a strength that government education officials can easily visit the city primary schools which are not so easy in rural areas but the experience says that these schools hardly see any government officials. Attractive education materials, environment, teachers’ training stand as great dividing factors between government and non-government primary schools in the city. Government primary schools must ensure these elements in order to survive well, if they really want to survive.
During the 1990s and early 2000s Bangladesh experienced strong urban economic growth, a reduction in poverty rates, and rapid growth in primary school environment. But it is not clear whether this enrolment happened in government primary schools or in the private sector. Though there is no such sound or easily available statistics, we find the mushroom growth of kindergarten and English medium schools at every nook and corner of the cities. This proves the shifting of education from the government disposal to the private sector, commercialization of education and education is for those who can afford to buy it.
‘Poverty in the Dhaka division is the lowest in the country and also dropped the fastest between 2000 and 2005. This seems to be partly due to people in rural areas finding jobs in the city. Dhaka’s population is expanding by 4.4percent each year making it the fastest growing city in the world.’ (UN-HABITAT 2008). The fastest growing city also creating slums with the same pace. The school going children in the primary level is not increasing according to increasing number of slum and disadvantaged people. Government probably wants to depend on NGOs for the slum people’s primary education or deliberately neglecting or avoiding it which does not conform to the slogan and efforts already declared to make the country illiteracy free.
Writer: Program Manager: BRAC Education Program, BRAC, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Email: [email protected]