The world is now in the throes of Corona catastrophe, the effects of which will be passed down from generation to generation, the potential of mankind may be destroyed, and the course of progress of the past decades will be hampered. There is a high risk of dropouts and child marriages due to long-term disruption in the education process. Due to the coronavirus epidemic, the educational institutions were declared closed on March 17 last year. Since then, the closures of the educational institutions have been extended in stages.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Education Information and Statistics, the number of students at the primary and secondary levels in the country is about 3 crore. This has already had a huge impact on the education of a large number of students. If the school is closed for a long time, the children will forget what they have learned. The crisis is more acute for primary and secondary. Most universities have online classes, but the attendance is not satisfactory. Although online classes are taken at a number of educational institutions in big cities, but most of them have not yet been standardized. Even if there is an online class system, it is not as effective as offline. There is also inequality in online teaching between students in the city and the students in urban & rural areas.
Free textbooks, stipends and various government initiatives have been successful in sending children to school in the last few decades, but the coronavirus epidemic is now threatening to lose that achievement. Besides, many children and teenagers may drop out due to the closure of schools for a long time.
The statistics have not come yet on how many students will leave their schools if the school is opened after the epidemic. But Rasheda K Chowdhury, executive director of the Mass Literacy Campaign, says they fear that 40 percent of children will drop out. “Many will drop out of primary school due to declining family income, food and health insecurity. Many children will go to work in search of livelihood. Child marriage will be added to this,” she said. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education in May last year published an action plan on Covid-19, which also fears that the dropout rate at the primary and secondary levels will increase due to the closure of educational institutions.
In addition, a joint report by the International Labor Organization and UNICEF said that the Covid-19 crisis has put millions of children at risk of being forced into labor.
Deputy Education Minister Mahibul Hasan Chowdhury Nawfel said, it would be a challenge if dropouts increase at the school level. “We have no plan now to manage this dropout,” he said. He also thinks that if the stipends and scholarships are increased after opening school, the dropouts will come back. The National Education Policy of 2010 calls for taking necessary steps to reduce the dropout rate so that all students can complete eighth grade by 2018. Despite the decline in dropouts in the last few years, the official dropout rate was 18.90 per cent at the primary level and more than 35 per cent at the secondary level last year. So now it is a matter of concern where covid-19 will take this number.
All developing countries are struggling to figure out how to make up for the loss of education. This is also a huge challenge for us. The big challenge is how to catch the dropouts. It should be noted that a section of such students could not be involved in any of the online or television education. Those who could not be connected through any means, how will their loss be made up? Rashed K Chowdhury emphasized two things for the implementation of the government’s post-Corona recovery program. First, separate arrangements need to be made for those who could not be involved in any means of education during the Corona period. “We need to build trust between these students and their parents,” she added. Second, there must be funds to bring back students from poor families and help them. They need an incentive package with a specific plan as well as proper implementation. Psychologists stress that being out of school for long time can lead to behavioral changes in many children. They say that such a situation can hinder their proper mental development. On the other hand, it can create a tendency in children to become accustomed to lead irregular life.
Many educational institutions are now conducting classes through online. Doctors fear that online classes could increase children’s addiction to mobile and the Internet. Parents are also talking about noticing many more behavioral changes in their children. The children are staying at home all the time as the school is closed and are getting addicted to mobile and internet. Parents complain that their sons are always restless to play video games. When it comes to studies, they don’t pay any attention.
There is also an additional burden on the shoulders of students from middle class, lower-middle class families to take the helm of the family, to land a job quickly. Masters and Honors final year students in Public Universities are stuck at the same semester for long time. While their private university counterparts have finished their student lives online, they are still on Na Man’s Land. Israt Sharmin Rahman, a clinical psychologist at the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs, said that sudden lifestyle changes affect children. “A lot of times we see that many people are having behavioral problems, some people are being very stubborn, some are having emotional reactions at once, some are crying suddenly.” The behavioral changes will make it difficult for children to adapt after the epidemic. Even if the educational institution opens, it will be difficult for children to cope up with other children and maintain their attention in the classroom. Because then they will get used to stay alone at home. Many will not want to go to school & socialize with friends.
In such a situation due to coronavirus, parents have to play the most important role for mental and social development of children. Parents should be by their side when they are frustrated. Even if the school is closed, children should be given a routine to keep them accustomed to a regular life.
The writer is an undergraduate student of Economics, University of Dhaka.