Climate, Covid and SDG: Education for All

Published: 15 Mar 2021     Updated: 15 Mar 2021

Md Abul Kalam Azad

‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’, this is told by Nelson Mandela. SDG 4 speaks about education; ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all having 10 targets and 11 indicators. 

In developing countries enrollment in primary education is 91% but 57 million children of school age are out of the school, one out of four girls is not in school. One data show that fifty percent out of school children of school age live in conflict affected area. Nearly 103 million youth lack basic literacy and skills; among them, more than sixty percent are women. 

In Bangladesh we find four million children is out of the school. They are mostly from disadvantaged group of people; a good number have the dropout for insolvency. Cyclone, flood, river erosion, sea level rise along with all other climate related events make the education for the vulnerable more difficult. Super cyclone Amphan in May 2020 alone caused full or partial damage to 2,000 educational institutes in Southern part of our country.

In this SDG 4 education, first priority is given on primary education and in 4.1 the target narrated that by 2030 ensure all girls and boys complete free, equitable primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes. We have the parameter on proportion of young children in grade two-three, how many boys and girls could complete the primary education and also how do they manage the proficiency level in reading and mathematics. In the monitoring report baseline data on this issue were considered; reading Bangla baseline data in 2015 is 41% where mathematics has 20% and at the end of primary that is the grade 5, 49% could read Bangla and 25% having the mathematics. In the next SDG target 4.1.2, completion rate of primary education, baseline data for 2019 that we had 82.6% complete primary education; we have a target to reach 87% by 2025 and 95% by 2030. Another SDG target that ensure all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education. Bangladesh government put much more emphasis on this and specifically now target is fixed for the 24 months to 59 months aged children. We had the data of having these types of completion in 2012-2013 is 63.9% with a target to reach 80% and 100% in 2025 and 2030 respectively. In organizational learning before the official primary entry age, 2015 data shows that only 39% had the participation rate. This is one of the most important area to take the boys and girls into the mainstream of education. So, we fixed our target at 90% and 100% in 2025 and 2030 respectively. 

For ensuring SDG targets in primary education, infrastructure facility is much more important. Before independence in 1971, primary education was in a very bad shape; primary schools having very minimal facility, thatched house or tin roof house was very common with rain drop during the rainy season. After independence Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took massive program for the development of primary education including nationalization of more than 26,000 primary school teachers along with their schools. Unfortunately, this type of primary education friendly initiative didn’t continue. But again, when Awami League government came into power in 1996 to 2001, and from 2009 to till date, it took remarkable program for primary education along with the nationalization of primary schools and the services of the teachers. Facilities for these schools in terms of infrastructure have developed a lot. In the rural area, government had a special scheme for having at least one primary school in each village. With that special program primary education got much more importance in terms of infrastructure, electricity, internet for pedagogical purpose and computer; also, materials for the students with disabilities, basic drinking water, single sex basic sanitation facility and basic hand wash facility that is the wash indicator in primary schools. If we look in to the rural village of Bangladesh now-a-days, you will find beautiful construction, a good design with a beautiful fencing. We strongly believe this encourages the children to be in the school. The baseline data of 2015 shows that 58% of primary school have electricity but internet and computer for a pedagogical purpose was not good, that was less than 1%. For the infrastructure and materials for the students with disabilities 34% primary schools were equipped, 82% schools had basic drinking water facility and 48% schools had the single sex basic sanitation facility; all these developed a lot with a target to reach 100% in all the area by 2030.

Primary schools having the facilities for sanitation and water increased the number of students in schools and reducing the dropout. Government has a special program for the ‘midday meal’. Under the coverage of UNICEF in some of the area special programs are being run but local initiative as encouraged by honorable Prime Minister to provide midday meal is working very well; more than 6,000 schools are already under this program with the local support; these also increase the attendance of schools in primary level. We need to ensure midday meal for all the schools. 

In primary education we need to ensure the equity, question of relevance in curriculum, need to ensure the child friendly environment for education, for the teaching and learning process sustainability of this and balanced approach. We need to fix up the learning outcomes for the children and catch them green for preparing them to be a better child for the whole globe. Morality, sincerity, honesty starting from the early age, having the education on reasonable behavior, dealing with the nature, important area to work with the children. 

For monitoring of the Primary Schools, we have a robust plan of monitoring from the upazilla through the government officials and also a team to look into the overall primary school activities is set in upazilla level. We are facing huge challenges to reach 100% primary education and also reducing the dropout to 0%. In terms of good practices, education in pre-primary schools in mosque based education. Publication of books for aboriginal students in their own language, distributing free books every year for the entire primary and high school students, 320-360 million books a year. This is one of the landmark programs of Bangladesh government working for the development of primary education. 

The challenges we face in primary education are a huge number; in terms of quality, because of the huge number very difficult to achieve. We are on the gateway of achieving the number with more emphasis on quality. Gradually the digital device, the Teachers’ Portal initiated by A2I, is doing a landmark development for the primary school teachers. During this Corona, students of urban area could do very well with their digital devices keeping some limitation for the rural and hard to reach area and for hard to reach family also.

In the meantime, we got about 100% of electricity in all the households but smartphone or television, laptop keep some limitation for the rural area students along with the issues of connectivity that is the broadband connection. We are very hopeful to overcome these challenges very soon. Ultimate target to educate the nation, giving more emphasis on primary education is the prime area of work for the government. Role of non-government organization along with some big organization like BRAC they have their remarkable role in achieving primary education in hard to reach area especially in the coastal belt, hawor and char area. Some innovative idea like school on boat created so much so sensation and also attraction which could fulfill uncovered area of rural village in terms of primary education. Rising demand of review the education policy is also touch the primary education area keeping in mind to build the character of a boy or girl having healthy body and healthy mind. 

Co-curriculum activities including ICT based activities, songs, sports and games, reading books, joining cultural events need to be taken care of. Ensuring quality primary education will lead the nation to be more equitable, more educated, and more skilled. 

Writer: Ex-Principal Secretary and Principal SDG Coordinator