Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Education privilege abused for politics

Education privilege abused for politics
Suranjith Deabnath
Source: Daily Star
July 20, 2008

Over 5,000 educational institutions were unnecessarily entitled to monthly pay order (MPO) by the last two political governments, leading to an annual loss of Tk 600 crore.

A school, college or madrasa won't be eligible for MPO if there is another such institution within three kilometres in rural and one kilometre in urban areas. Besides, an institution for a population of minimum 8,000 can apply for MPO.

These rules along with many others were grossly violated in the last ten years of political governments' rule, especially during the tenure of the BNP-Jamaat government. Many BNP and Jamaat legislators and politicians set up huge number of non-government institutions unnecessarily and named those after themselves, family members or senior politicians.

Most of the educational institutions were set up during this era on the basis of personal choice or political gain rather than necessity and were entitled to MPO.

These leaders and policymakers did not take any steps to establish around 3,000 institutions required especially in Dhaka and Sylhet divisions, according to a study of Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (Banbeis).

As many as 3,063 institutions -- 897 high schools, 57 colleges, 706 madrasas, 831 vocational Institutions and 572 business management institutions -- are badly needed in the remote areas in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet.

But the Ministry of Education and the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE), popularly known as Shikkha Bhaban, approved excess 5,125 institutions including 3,035 non-government high schools, 671 colleges and 1,419 madrasas elsewhere and entitled those to MPO under political pressure.

The Banbeis study on "Location of Educational Institutions as per Electoral Constituency" shows that most of these institutions are situated in Rajshahi, Khulna and Barisal divisions.

DSHE Director General Prof KM Aurangazeb said an expert committee of renowned educationists should be formed to identify the areas requiring new educational institutions.

"Shikkha Bhaban spends Tk 3,043 crore annually on MPO. Yes, some additional institutions were entitled to MPO violating the rules. But Shikkha Bhaban brought those institutions under MPO as per the direction of the education ministry," Prof Aurangazeb told The Daily Star.

At least nine teachers and two employees are working at each MPO-enlisted institution and the government has to spend Tk 90,000 to Tk 1.3 lakh every month for each of these institutions, sources at DSHE say.

Dinajpur tops the list of districts having additional non-government educational institutions with highest 427. Jessore has second highest 372 and Rajshahi has 344 institutions.

On the other hand, 211 non-government institutions including 102 schools are required in Habiganj, but no initiatives have been taken to set up any, Banbeis sources say.

Besides, according to rules, 57 institutions including 31 schools should be entitled to MPO but only 36 got it.

Academicians say the government's target to take education to every door won't be successful without removing the discrimination in setting up schools, colleges and madrasas and allowing MPO.

"Many people are still deprived of education as there is no educational institutions near them. On the other hand, huge public fund is being wasted as many schools, colleges and madrasas were enlisted in senior politicians' areas in spite of having sufficient institutions within eight kilometres," said a top official of the ministry.

In Rajshahi division, nearly 9,000 institutions were enlisted which is about one-third of the country's MPO-enlisted institutions.

Ministry sources say many senior leaders of BNP and Jamaat set up institutions in their respective areas although there were enough institutions. For this reason, additional 1,689 schools, 457 colleges and 692 madrasas were enlisted only in Rajshahi division violating MPO rules.

On the other hand, Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet divisions and some other areas need 897 schools, 57 colleges and 706 madrasas where students are being deprived of education.

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