The school with around 400 registered students has been closed since March 17 in line with government directives to contain Covid-19 transmission in Bangladesh
Nur Akhter Dolly has been running Green Leaf International School, a budget kindergarten at Adabor in Dhaka, for 11 years but she has never faced a fight for survival like now.
The school with around 400 registered students has been closed since March 17 in line with government directives to contain Covid-19 transmission in Bangladesh. As there has been no payment from parents because of the closure, the school’s finances are now in shambles.
“The school is closed, and parents are unable to pay tuition, but we still need to pay Tk80,000 for monthly rent. The teachers and staff of the school are struggling every day,” said Dolly, founder and director of the school.
There are 23 teachers and seven staff members employed at the school and none of them have received any payment since March. The school used to pay Tk1.5 lakh in salaries and around Tk20,000 for utilities, including electricity, every month.
“We have not been able to pay even Tk10 to the teachers and staff as there are no funds,” said Dolly.
Three months into the crisis, Dolly started a toy story on the school premises with the help of some relatives to try to generate some funds.
She said some of the teachers had turned to selling seasonal fruits to make ends meet.
Many other kindergartens across the country are also in financial turmoil due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Having gone unpaid for nearly seven months, many teachers are now looking for alternative sources of livelihood.
The management of Green Bangla Ideal School in Mirpur 12 had to shut down as they could neither pay the teachers and staff nor the landlord of the property.
“The school had 97 students, 12 teachers and two other staff. Expenses were about Tk1 lakh per month, including Tk35,000 as house rent. We had to shut down the school in July as we saw the future was bleak,” said Mostafizur Rahman, founding principal of the school.
He added that when he found parents were no longer receiving phone calls, he tried to use his personal savings to keep the school alive but could not do so for long.
“I have transferred the furniture to my father-in-law’s house and also left our own house as well,” said Rahman, now burdened with bank loans and having to stay at his father-in-law’s house.
Takbir Ahmed, founder of Fulkuri Kindergarten and High School, luckily received a donation to save the school just as he was preparing to sell off the furniture.
However, some of the teachers of the school have begun selling various products to survive, he said.
Operators of the Orient Public School at Mohammadpur, which had 300 students and expenses of about Tk1 lakh per month, closed the school in July.
Most teachers of the Little Stars Preparatory School in Pallabi have returned to their village homes to try and find a way to earn a living as the school has been closed for seven months now, said head of the school Abdul Majed Sarker.
‘We want to reopen kindergartens’
Iqbal Bahar Chowdhury, chairman of Bangladesh Kindergarten School and College Oikya Parishad, said they receive news of school closures almost every day.
“Management are selling their schools because of the financial crunch. We have formed human chains and submitted memorandums to the government demanding support from the government, but no assistance has come forth, so far,” he added.
According to Bahar, there are around 60,000 kindergartens in Bangladesh employing nearly 1,000,000 teachers. Around 90% of the schools operate in rented houses and are dependent on tuition fees for managing expenditure.
“At least 500 of them have closed in Bangladesh, and thousands of teachers have become unemployed,” he said.
“All the general institutions are now operating across Bangladesh and the government has also allowed Qawmi Madrasah’s to open their institutions. So, we want to open kindergartens from October 4, if the government allows,” said Bahar.
The association leader demanded of the government to provide financial assistance for teachers, soft loans for owners of kindergartens and waivers on utility bills of the schools that are hit-hard by the pandemic.
When asked, Primary and Mass Education senior Secretary Akram-Al-Hossain said they are not yet considering any assistance for kindergarten schools.
“However, for students from kindergartens that are forced to shut down because of financial liabilities faced by Covid-19 pandemic, primary schools have been asked to enroll those students at any time of the year,” he said.
All schools and other educational institutions are set to stay closed till October 3 due to the Covid-19 pandemic in Bangladesh.