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Despite pandemic effects, Bangladesh leaves education budget almost unchanged, again

  • News Desk, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2021-06-03 17:14:00 BdST

The government has increased the allocation for the education sector in the national budget by 8.36 percent to Tk 719.51 billion, but it remains almost unchanged in proportion despite the ripple effects of the pandemic.

With schools and universities shut since mid-March last year as part of the efforts to keep coronavirus infections under control, the education sector has continued to reel from the effects of the pandemic.

The disruption led to calls for greater attention to the education sector but the proposed allocation for the education and technology sectors combined has increased by only 0.6 percentage points in proportion to the size of the Tk 6.04 trillion budget unveiled on Thursday.

The Tk 948.76 billion allocation for the sectors in 2021-22 represents 15.7 percent of the total budget.

In the budget for FY2021, Tk 857.62 billion was set aside for the sectors, making up 15.1 percent of the total budget.

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal mentioned in his budget speech that the government’s fourth priority sector now is the overall development of human resources, including education and skills enhancement, after health, implementation of stimulus packages, and agriculture.

Authorities at Phulkundi Kindergarten School of Nabinagar Housing in Dhaka's Mohammadpur are struggling to run the school amid the coronavirus epidemic. There may be no students now as the school is closed but its expenditures remain. Unable to bear the expenses, the authorities have now put the school, established in 2004, up for sale. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

Authorities at Phulkundi Kindergarten School of Nabinagar Housing in Dhaka's Mohammadpur are struggling to run the school amid the coronavirus epidemic. There may be no students now as the school is closed but its expenditures remain. Unable to bear the expenses, the authorities have now put the school, established in 2004, up for sale. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

The combined allocation proposed for human resource development, including education, health and other related sectors, will be Tk 1.56 trillion.

To prepare for future pandemics, the government is prioritising medical education. Like last year, Kamal proposed the allocation of Tk 1 billion for an Integrated Health Science Research and Development Fund.

The government has set up several medical universities and the work to construct more is going on.

Kamal said soft loans have been provided to 41,501 financially insolvent students to purchase smartphones so that they can participate in online classes at the university level.

To check dropouts, the government allocated Tk 37.12 billion in the outgoing fiscal year for kit allowance and stipend for primary school students.

In FY2022, over Tk 21 billion will be provided to the students at the secondary, higher secondary and graduation (pass) level as well.

‘NOT ENOUGH’

Experts believe a Tk 55.51 billion increase in the allocation for the sector is not sufficient to help recover the losses caused by the huge gap in study and dropouts.

They said government needs to make huge investments in the sector to pull it out of the crisis.

Rasheda K Choudhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education, said along with businesses, educational institutions need incentives as well to save jobs.

“This budget will save lives and livelihoods, but no economic development will be sustainable if you don’t make proper investment in education for the development of human resources,” said a former adviser to the caretaker government.

She thinks the government is not right to claim that it has allocated a huge amount for human resource development.

The government has made 11.91 percent of the total budget available for the education sector, much less than the 15 percent expected by Rasheda.

“How will we be able to keep up the achievements in the sector?” she wondered.