The government is going to bring the stipends procedure for around 40 lakh students from class VI to XII under a single umbrella to curb corruption and irregularities in stipend distribution.
The finance ministry has already approved a five-year scheme titled “Harmonised Stipends Programme” (HSP) to bring all activities related to stipend distribution under a single project, sources at the education ministry said.Following the ministry’s latest move, the stipends projects under the education ministry whose tenure already expired will not get further extension.
Sources said there are allegations of various types of irregularities in distribution of stipends while the authorities have also found the allegations to be true in several cases.
Under the circumstances, the education ministry took the initiative to bring all activities related to the stipends under a single project with a view to ensuring proper distribution of the scholarships.
As a part of the initiative, the government took a project titled “Secondary Education Development Program (SEDP)“, funded jointly by the World Bank and Bangladesh government.
The education ministry is implementing the SEDP project with a view to curbing irregularities regarding selection of students, distribution of stipends and other activities.
A letter was sent to the offices of education administration signed by education ministry’s Secondary and Higher Secondary division additional secretary and SEDP project coordinator Jabed Ahmed informing about the move on August 8.Different activities of the SEDP under the secondary and higher education division will be implemented through the approved scheme, HSP.
It was mentioned in the letter that on June 30, the Finance Division has approved the HSP to run all stipends activities under the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education for a five-year period from July 2018 to June 2023.
There are stipends and tuition benefits for the selected students from poor families from class VI to class XII. Under the approved scheme, there is a combined rate of scholarship which is far more than the benefits of the existing stipends, the letter said.
According to the approved schemes, the ongoing scholarship projects under the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education will be included under the scheme after end of tenure and the necessary allocation kept for them.
The letter also said, “If the tenure of the expired stipend projects is extended, then the purpose of the HSP scheme will be disrupted and the students under the respective projects will be deprived of receiving higher rate of scholarship under the new scheme.”
For this reason, letters were sent by the education ministry on July 11 asking the authorities concerned not to extend tenure of the recently expired two scholarship projects — Higher Secondary Scholarship Project (HSSP) and Secondary Education Quality and Access Enhancement Project (SEQAEP).
The project coordinator and ministry’s additional secretary Jabed Ahmed said, “We will start the work of the projects within the shortest time and the process is now underway to appoint a project director.”
He also said, “The DSHE director [planning and development] will work as the project director if the appointment process of the PD is delayed.”
Ministry sources said around 40 lakh students from class VI to XII are now getting stipends under four projects — Secondary Education Scholarship Project (SESP), HSSP, SEQAEP, and SESIP.
The SESP and HSSP are funded by Bangladesh government while the rest of the two projects are funded by the World Bank and ADB along with the government.
Apart from these projects, the students at honours level are getting stipends from the Prime Minister’s Education Assistance Trust fund.
Earlier, at the time of formation of the Prime Minister’s Education Assistance Trust Fund in 2002, it was decided that the government stipends programme provided to the students of class VI to graduate level would be brought under this trust fund. But the decision was not implemented due to the legal complexities and objections of project officials.
The tenure of SESP and HSSP scholarship projects ended on June. Proposals were sent to the planning commission to extend tenure of SESP for one year and two years for HSSP project. But extension of the two projects remains stuck due to the ministry‘s letters.
Meanwhile, the ‘SEQAEP‘ project was launched in July 2008 with joint funding from the World Bank and the Government of Bangladesh to improve the quality of secondary education. The cost of the project was estimated at Tk 3,480 crore.
Following the success of the project in the first phase, the tenure of the ‘SEQAEP’ project was extended till December 7, 2017. A total of 250 upazilas were brought under the project with the additional funding of the World Bank.
Around 18 lakh students from the backward institutions of the upazilas get stipends but the students now will be deprived of the facilities if the project tenure ends.
Although the HSP scheme was approved six months ago, the students are not getting stipends due to negligence of a section of officials of the concerned ministry.
Ministry officials said around 40 lakh students are now getting stipends under four projects. Of them, 68 percent are female students and 32 percent male students.
There is a proposal in the combined stipends system to provide scholarship to 25 to 30 percent poor students while it suggested providing 100 percent stipends to the minor ethnic groups, third gender, differently-abled students and ex-residents of enclaves.
Stipends activities had been launched in the country in 1994 to help poor and meritorious students.