Renowned educationist and social activist Rasheda K. Chowdhury has signaled five major consequences, including large scale dropouts, amid disruption of educational activities due to COVID-19 and sought a comprehensive recovery plan involving teachers.
“It has to be a comprehensive recovery plan. In any recovery plan (for the education sector), teachers need to be involved,” said Rasheda, the Executive Director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), also an adviser to the last caretaker government. Anything otherwise, and whatever has been achieved till now in the education sector will be at risk.
Apart from ‘possible’ (since official numbers are not published yet) large scale dropouts, she also mentioned a possible concurrent increase in child labour, or early marriage for girls which will consequently increase early pregnancy and increasing malnutrition.
The educationist, while addressing a virtual Cosmos Dialogue on Friday night said the COVID-19 is impacting on everything and there is need for COVID-19 recovery plan in education system. “There has to be investment.”
The webinar titled “Impact of COVID-19 on Bangladesh: Prognosis for Recovery” was held as part of Cosmos Dialogue.
Earlier, Rasheda noted that their hunch of learning loss has been proven correct by recent research saying they have feared that alternative education would not reach everybody.
She strongly suggested that a solution cannot be found without involvement of teachers but their advice is being ignored.
“No one is discussing with teachers at the policy-making stage…Local education administrations need to be involved to restore education and reduce learning losses,” she added.
Rasheda highlighted the educational deficit between Bangladesh and other countries citing UN statistics.
“Globally 1.2 billion learners are still out of educational institutions. Developed countries have reached out to those among their own populations but in Bangladesh we have 40 million students, ranging from pre-primary to higher education level,” she said.
She noted that the government has been trying four methods to reduce learning loss after the closure of educational institutes due to COVID-19 pandemic — televised lessons, online courses, radio broadcast and through mobile devices.
“(Despite the effort) we have not been able to reach out to large number of vulnerable student groups including women and ethnic minorities,” said the educationist.
The CAMPE Director said girls will be hard hit all the time due to the pandemic and gender based violence inside home will increase as well.
She mentioned that in order to address the possible consequences, experts have been proposing formation of a COVID-19 response and recovery team solely for the education sector.
Social safety net programmes should be introduced in a larger scale for education sector such as school meal programme to deal with malnutrition, she said.
She condemned lack in policymaking highlighting that teachers are not being included in any type of recovery plans.
“We’ve talked about recovering many sectors but teachers are not part of it, and they are being ignored. At one point we have to open schools. But are the teachers, students and parents ready?” she said adding that a comprehensive solution is needed to tackle these issues.
Dr Rasheda said there has to be investment and there should be focus on human capacity enhancement.
“We need skilled manpower,” she said adding that digital divide needs to be minimized.
The educatinst said this could be another opportunity for Bangladesh if proper steps are taken making the best use of digital opportunity.
She also noted that now is the proper opportunity to use the digital means to develop skills and reskill Bangladeshi young people including women.
“However, the majority of them might not get the chance because of the costs. There have to be investments made in skilling, reskilling and human capacity enhancement…we can deal with economic crisis, but if we lose one generation of learners that will be a huge loss,” she added.
Dr Rasheda highlighted that country’s SME sector is in grave danger because most of the workforce here are women who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.
A recent study by Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) showed a staggering 80 percent drop in total time students spend studying in Bangladesh since the closure of educational institutes.
The study says they use two hours in a day for study in average at present which was around 10 hours previously before the vacation announced for coronavirus pandemic.
Findings from the study show that self-study hours have also declined significantly during the same period.
Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Cosmos Group, organised the webinar.
Chairman of Cosmos Foundation Enayetullah Khan delivered the welcome speech at the webinar chaired by Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, the Principal Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, and former Foreign Affairs Adviser to Bangladesh’s previous caretaker government.
Prominent economist and Chairman of Policy Research Institute (PRI) Dr Zaidi Sattar talked about the macroeconomic impact of COVID-19 on Bangladesh and prognosis for recovery.
Prof Haider Khan, John Evans Distinguished Professor of Economics at the University of Denver, highlighted the geopolitical implications of COVID-19 and challenges for Bangladesh.
Muhammed Aziz Khan, founder and Chairman of Summit Power International Limited, Summit Holdings Ltd and IPCO Developments (Bangladesh) Limited, talked about the impact of COVID-19 on the infrastructure sector.
President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Dr Rubana Huq discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the readymade garment sector in Bangladesh.
Cosmos Foundation Executive Director Nahar Khan delivered the concluding remarks.
Dhaka Courier was the knowledge partner of the event.