Thousands of schools to be nationalized
Catholic institutions to remain independent
ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka, Bangladesh
January 10, 2013
The government announced yesterday it is to nationalize all the country’s non-government primary schools with the exception of Catholic-run institutions which will maintain their independence.
To be implemented fully by next January, nationalization will see 26,193 non-government primary schools being fully funded by the government at an annual cost of over 12 billion taka (US$ 150 million), according to the Primary and Mass Education Ministry.
Primary education in Bangladesh covers grades 1 to 5 and is completely free in government schools.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made the announcement at a primary teachers' rally in Dhaka. She also underlined the need for teachers not only to maintain standards but to improve them.
“Nationalization doesn't mean you won't pay proper attention to your teaching. You'll have to maintain standards,” she said, adding that she wants to see teachers teaching students as if they were their own children.
The announcement was met by applause from the teachers at the rally. Nationalization is welcome news for tens of thousands of mostly rural non-government teachers, who for years have struggled to support their families on a poor salary and benefits.
Many have been forced to opt for private tuition to make ends meet, which in turn has contributed to poor education standards in school classrooms.
“For 22 years we have been demanding nationalization. I thank the government for paying heed our cries finally,” said one headmaster, Sukomol Chandra Barmon.
Teachers like Barmon say they can now expect much better wages and benefits as government employees.
“My salary was 4,950 taka per month. With nationalization, it will rise to about 10,000,” Barmon told ucanews.com.
However, around 302 primary schools run by the Catholic Church, will not be part of the nationalization scheme.
The Catholic Bishops’ Bangladesh Catholic Education Board (BCEB) oversees about 500 schools and colleges across the country; many are top ranking schools in their areas.
BCEB secretary Holy Cross Brother Bijoy Rodrigues said no Church school wanted to be nationalized, because they foresaw future problems such as government meddling in school activities. Besides, teachers are already better paid, and receive good benefits.
“The government will fully control nationalized schools, which means lack of control over teacher appointments and education standards,” Br Rodrigues said.
In the past 20 years at least 10 Church-run schools were nationalized and the quality of education dropped dramatically, he said.
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