Unicef, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies launched the Child Equity Atlas: Pockets of Social Deprivation. They jointly released a report at the end of July 2013 which reveals that half of the country’s school-aged children are not enrolled in any school. The Bangladesh Primary Education Annual Sector Performance Report and the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics both published another report towards the end of 2012 that 1.91 crore children aged between 6 and 17 are not receiving any schooling.This amounts to 46 percent of the total population of children in this age group, according to government’s 2011 population and housing census. These surveys must be a serious concern to the government which had previously claimed that there was almost 100 percent enrolment of primary school of children aged between 6 years and 10 years. The full enrolment of children of primary school age by 2011 was one of the electoral pledges of the present government in their 2008 election manifesto. But now the picture proves it rather frustrating. It always narrows down the scope of development sectors’ participation in the race of achieving ‘education for all’ goal.
The situation of secondary school enrolment is far worse. The BANBEIS survey showed that 56 percent of the 1.6 crore children in the 11-15 years age group and 85 percent of the total 69 lakh children aged 16-17 years are not enrolled. The Campaign for popular Education Executive Director, Rasheda K Choudhury told-‘ in reality the numbers of children who do not go to school are higher than even the survey figures. In our experience we observe that there are four categories of children—such as children with disabilities, poor children and not settled, indigenous and those from remote areas such as haor areas—are not part of primary and secondary school education.’She continues, “Many children do not go to school for the lack of schools as there are many villages in the country without either any primary or secondary schools.’ In many cases, people cannot afford the high cost of education is also a countable factor. Progress in attaining equity is uneven in Bangladesh despite impressive trends observed in reaching gender parity in education, school enrollment, and youth literacy. Disparities exist in effective coverage of basic social services by geographic regions, rural-urban, gender, wealth, ethnicity, and other dimensions for children and women. The findings in Child Equity Atlas: Pockets of Social Deprivation reinforce the need for geographic targeting and collaborative efforts among different sectors and development partners to reach out to the most deprived communities through greater policy and budgetary.
The report analyzed the 2011 Census data to understand the patterns of social inequalities, identify areas of progress and persisting pockets of social deprivation. It also compared data of the Population Census 2001 and 2011 on the progresses made in the key social deprivations faced by children, youth and women. “This report recognizes the impact of inequalities on national development. It is a wake-up call for commitment to the most marginalised and excluded areas to ensure that not a single child is left behind”, says Pascal Villeneuve, Representative of UNICEF Bangladesh. According to the 2011 Census, proportion of the population below 18 years is 39.7 per cent, showing a five per cent reduction from 2001. The proportion of female headed households has increased from 13.8 per cent in 2001 to 15.6 per cent in 2011 with minimal difference between urban which is 14 per cent and in rural areas it is 16 per cent. Another key indicator in this Child Equity Atlas is real child labour. The children between 10 and 14 years old are employed for the production of market and nonmarket goods not for household use or unpaid household services and are not in school. Child marriage is also another factor which of course increases the number of dropouts.
The whole scenario reveals that one in four children (aged 6-10 years) is still out of school, which poses a huge challenge in achieving education for all. School attendance rate of children aged five years is fairly low with only about two out of 10 children attending pre-school. Almost 23 per cent of children aged 6-10 years are out of school with little difference between boys and girls. Even in the best performing upazilas 13 out of 100 children are out of school and 45 out of 100 children are not attending school in the worst performing upazilas. Manzoor Ahmed, Senior Adviser to the Institute of Education.
Development, BRAC University said, “ Although the government does not agree with these statistics, the reality is that a large number of children are still out of school.” “This report recognises the impact of inequalities on national development. It is a wake-up call for commitment to the most marginalized and excluded areas to ensure that not a single child is left behind,” says Pascal Villeneuve in his remarks.
(The author is Program Manager: BRAC Education Program and Vice-president: Bangladesh English Language Teachers Association (BELTA)