Sunamganj tops in school dropouts 

Dhaka,  Wed,  23 August 2017
Published : 20 May 2017, 21:32:47

Sunamganj tops in school dropouts 

SINCE haor areas in Sunamganj recently witnessed devastating flash-floods, the news of its poor rate of enrolment is unbearable. It has been ranked first in the number of school dropouts among the country's 64 districts. Its contribution to both primary and secondary levels of education is almost nonexistent due to inadequate communication and transportation infrastructure alongside poverty.

Deep inside the haor region, upazilas such as South Sunamganj, Biswambharpur, Dirai, Shalla, Dharmapasha, Tahirpur and Jamalganj annually experience a deterioration in weather conditions as well as damage to transportation and communication infrastructure during the monsoons. Strong waves disrupt the district's regular commuting as boat rides become too risky for schoolchildren. Numerous children are known to have drowned on their way to schools over the years. Consequently, anxious families abstain from sending their children to school when water level goes higher. 

However, district education officials complain that an acute shortage of public awareness towards education is responsible for the dropouts. Instead of enrolling their children in schools, the district's illiterate and impoverished parents are more likely to engage them in household chores as they feel it necessary. In addition, the recent floods have inundated the paddy fields causing financial and food security to plummet heavily. Despite the existence of numerous public schools in Sunamganj's haor constituencies, locals consider education as a luxury.

Numerous NGOs, charitable organisations, community foundations and social enterprises have invested heavily to promote education among disfranchised residents of the haors. At present, BRAC operates 123 primary schools in Shalla upazila while the government is running 103 primary schools. However, construction of schools has failed to encourage the locals of poverty-stricken Sunamganj. The local parents are thus forced to stop their children from getting further education and engage them labour-intensive agriculture or seasonal fishing expecting an overall increase in family income at the cost of their children's education. Residents of the haor areas consist of peasants, pastoral farmers and fishermen without any secured employment or entrepreneurial opportunity. 

Furthermore, Educational Institutional Survey by Education Watch once calculated that 39.8 per cent of students in Sunamganj's haor belt face huge difficulties in transportation during dry seasons and 66.8 per cent fails to get reliable transports during rainy seasons. If the government introduces waterbus services for their safe and speedy movement, there will be fewer dropouts from schools and a reduced dropout can help the haor students with an opportunity to  venture into lucrative income sources armed with knowledge and professional expertise. 

If Sunamganj can give birth to icons like Hason Raja, Shah Abdul Karim and Radharaman Dutta, why would it stop to bear the torch of education and deprive its people of prosperity?

Nabil Azam Dewan

Lalmatia, Dhaka

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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