The Covid-19 pandemic associated with the subsequent prolonged school closure has escalated a sharp rise of school dropout rate in the country. It has brought forth grave tension for the authorities working in the respective arenas. The increasing trend of school dropout rate has kicked back Bangladesh into a series of problems and variant social maladies like child marriage and child labour. Even the substantive portrayal of the school dropout is obscure to many yet. Consequently, a comprehensive study and empirical framework based on a recovery plan must be adopted to address this ultimate national setback.
The Covid-19 crisis has revealed that our existing education system is closely connected with our livelihood and it is no longer a detached perspective. We already have come to know that during the pandemic almost 44% of families have been forced to remain below the poverty line where a large number of school-children are present in those households. In this reality, the school dropout issue has become a matter of dire concern for all quarters thoughtful about the national interest for the country.
One of the worst hits of Covid-19 is the sharp rise in the school dropout rate, in particular, in the rural areas. Under this circumstance, our country like many other countries will bear the brunt in many spheres of its socio-economic run-up. During the pandemic, the shrinkage in the income of low to middle-class households has compelled many children to be involved with money-generating activities which have significantly heightened the school dropout rate in the country.
Bangladesh has secured an impressive headway in girls’ education rate and school enrolment in recent years. Keeping a balanced consistency with the Millennium Development Goals Index girls’ enrolment in primary schools was quite satisfactory in the last year. A report published by BANBEIS in 2019 shows that there are 10.34 million students at the secondary level in the country, of whom 53.83% are female which is hope-mongering for sure.
But the sudden lift in the rate of school dropout among the school girls due to lengthened school adjournment along with economic hardship of the parents has become a huge worry. Indeed, regular schooling for girls is a concrete hindrance to marrying them off at an early age, particularly in rural areas. But the teenage girls are being fated to get married due to poverty, economic fallout, and prolonged school postponement concurrently. So, confronting school dropout and child marriage is now a burdensome challenge for the relevant quarters.
Nearly 2,000 pre-primary, primary, junior, and high schools run with private ownership in the country have been shut down perpetually where hundreds of thousands of children studied. Now, most of them are suspended from regular education and school enrolment which has annexed a further rate in dropout.
Government organizations along with NGOs, local stakeholders, and concerned partner agencies have to work in joint hands to address the problem of school dropout and augment enrolment of children in the schools in a planned approach. This concentrated awkward quandary centring school dropout rate should get preference to be trimmed back practically.
A comprehensive and quality study to find out the vulnerable and dropout-like students due to Covid-19 should be undertaken. Teachers and NGO workers in collaboration with local social workers, learning promoters, and education philanthropists can work together in collecting primary data through a multi-respondent survey in order to sketch a real picture to address the root causes of the school dropout and its possible solutions.
It is a great challenge for policymakers to safeguard the learning and intellectual well-being of children. A sound and sufficient budget allocation might function to cut short the crisis we are in. By the way, it is the right time all concerned exerted their earnest endeavour to palliate this unsought national loss. The authorities concerned should prepare a pragmatic response and recovery plan, and execute that having no delay. Finally, we all have to work in joint hands to confront this massive national shock.
The writer is a teaching professional.