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Monday, July 21, 2008

Let NGOs do their good work, primary education is govt.’s responsibility

Primary school teachers are agitating against a pilot project under which BRAC, the largest NGO of Bangladesh, has been asked to improve the quality of education and classroom environment, and make the school managing committees more effective.

On Thursday thousands of primary school teachers staged demonstrations and brought out processions at different district headquarters demanding cancellation of the BRAC-sponsored training programme for primary teachers of schools in 20 upazilas in nine districts. They submitted memorandums to the Chief Adviser through the respective Deputy Commissioners (DCs) as part of their centrally announced programme demanding immediate withdrawal of the government approval for a pilot project.

A group of primary school teachers observed an hour-long work abstention on June 5 demanding cancellation of the BRAC-run training programme.

The president of the Bangladesh Government Primary School Teachers Association told journalists they refused to receive training from BRAC under any circumstances.

Primary school teachers complained that the measure would establish dyarchy in primary school administration, and teachers would be in a dilemma as to whom they should obey - the BRAC instructors or the Upazila Education Officers.

BRAC authorities gave an explanation that the project aimed to "improve the standard of education at selected government and registered non-government primary schools", rather than seeking "control over management of these schools". It is the responsibility of the State to ensure standard free primary education, BRAC said in a statement. "BRAC does not believe in privatisation or commercialisation of primary education," the NGO said in a statement. Initiated jointly by BRAC and the Government, the pilot project in question aims to increase attendance, reduce high dropout rates and improve the overall quality of teaching and education in 20 upazilas.

On May 23 last, the government approved the pilot project. Terming the government's move to get the teachers trained by BRAC as a step towards privatisation of primary education as prescribed by the lending agencies, leaders of different organisations of primary teachers said they would foil this move at any cost.

Earlier, the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education said the government was implementing multipurpose development activities and training programmes under the Primary Education Programme II through the Directorate of Primary Education for raising its standard. Various national and foreign development organisations are working as the government's partners to implement the programme.

It is known to all that Bangladesh’s biggest NGO has been doing good work in many fields including primary education in its community schools. BRAC is currently operating 37,500 primary schools with 12 lakh students. BRAC schools have earned international reputation.

There is no denying the fact that the government primary and registered primary schools over the years have failed to live up to the expectations of the authorities as the standard of instructions in those deteriorated. This has been reflected in the performance of schools where school attendance rate as well as dropout rate have increased.

The government-run schools and those run by NGOs are, however, two different types of entities. It would not be possible to transform one category of schools into another category.

Then again, it is the responsibility of the State to provide basic education to its citizens. All conscious people want improvement of the quality of primary education. But giving the responsibility of training teachers of these schools to NGOs would rather harm the reputation of the latter.

If there is any mismanagement or failure, an accountability structure should be built in the system and those found responsible should be punished. The State should devise its own method of training the teachers of the government and registered primary schools instead of antagonizing teachers and whipping up an anti-government movement.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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