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The prevailing political turmoil in the country is one of the major reasons for lessening the learning hours in schools as the classes often get postponed due to the political programmes like hartal, said educationists and experts.
“Compared to other countries, primary school students in Bangladesh generally do not get enough learning hours in primary schools,” said Dr Manzoor Ahmed, senior adviser of the Institute of Educational Development, Brac University.
Moreover, he said, political programmes like hartal further decreases the time the children get to spend with the teachers.
The recent countrywide hartals enforced by different parties are the examples of how the normal procedure of education is disrupted by political programmes.
The hartals were enforced at a time when annual exams were going on in most of the schools in the country. As a result, the schools in the major cities rescheduled their exams and students took the makeup exams on the weekends.
“The makeup exams or classes on the weekend affect the minds of children in a negative way, because they take up the little leisure time the children get once a week,” commented by Rasheda K Chowdhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) and a former adviser to the caretaker government.
The recent hartals affected students in more ways than one. For example, students prepared for one exam but had to sit for another, explained Manju Ara Begum, principal of Viqarunnisa Noon School and College.
“Hartals also make it harder for us to finish the syllabi within the academic year,” she added.
Violence on the streets during the hartals, demonstrations and protest rallies have made the parents apprehensive about the safety of their school-going children.
“After watching the murder of Biswajit in broad day light, I can’t help being anxious about my teenage daughter’s safety while there is so much tension among political parties,” said Nina Ahmed, a guardian.
Nina now takes her daughter from Sutrapur to the school at Motijheel everyday after watching the brutal incident on television.
Hartals are not the only disruptions in the normal procedure of education. School premises are often used as polling centres during the parliamentary and local government elections. Teachers, who work at the polling centres, need to take training for the job.
“The regular process of teaching gets hampered for almost an entire week during elections,” said a high school teacher unwilling to disclose her name.
As Manzoor Ahmed pointed out, politicisation of the management of schools and interference on the recruitment of teachers is a common phenomenon in the country.
“It’s as if the very process of education is of minor concern to everybody, while everything else gets prioritised,” asserts Ahmed.
Moreover, in our country there has always been a practice of lining up students on roads to welcome lawmakers and other dignitaries. The government directed the educational institutions to stop the custom in 2009.
Notwithstanding this, the practice has been noticed in quite some areas in recent times. “We had to line up our students with flowers when the local MP visited the area last year,” said a teacher on conditions of anonymity. His school is located in Shibpur, Narsingdi.
He added that students of the villages are generally unwilling to attend school. “When the classes are dismissed for some political programme, it becomes harder for us to make the students return to class”.
Political programmes on the streets are quite natural in the democratic societies but children’s education should not be affected by them, said Rasheda K Choudhury. “The parties should remember that their programmes have serious repercussions on the education of future generation of the country,” she said.