Save the Children conducted the study during the Covid-19 pandemic as part of their ongoing Empowering Girls through Education (EGE) project
About seven out of 10 school-going girls in rural areas are still deprived of distance education, even though the government took initiative to broadcast regular lessons on Sangsad Bangladesh Television, according to a recent study by Save the Children.
The study, unveiled on Tuesday, said 69% of girls do not have access to distance education, as only 31% of families have access to a TV with a cable network connection.
Save the Children conducted the study during the Covid-19 pandemic as part of their ongoing Empowering Girls through Education (EGE) project. The project, designed by Save the Children and funded by Hempel Foundation, is being implemented to address the challenges girl students face transitioning from primary school to secondary school, said Project Director Shahin Islam.
It aims to support 8,738 girl students of grade IV and V in 120 government primary schools from Rajarhat under Kurigram district and Madarganj under Jamalpur district. The project duration is from October 2018 to December 2021.
The project has partnered with development organizations Friendship and Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), and has a strategic partnership with Robi.
Shahin said they began conducting the study among girl students of the 120 primary schools when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.
64% of students with TV access watched class broadcasts
The study found that 64% of students with TV access watched the classes on Sangsad Bangladesh TV.
Furthermore, it found that 97% of the parents use mobile phones, but only 23% have smartphones. Just 3% of the homes have broadband internet connectivity.
50% of the respondents said they believe voice and text messaging are useful for raising awareness of Covid-19 and the importance of children's education.
65% of the parents said phone calls for education followups was effective.
The study found that slow and inconsistent internet connectivity and frequent electricity problems were barriers to distance learning in the new normal.
One recommendation of the study was for primary school teachers to hold courtyard sessions for children who do not have access to television.
It also recommended more awareness programs with microphone announcements and the circulation of posters and leaflets, as well as staging educational street theatre.
Tapan Kumar Ghosh, director general of the Bureau of Non-Formal Education and additional secretary of the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, said: "After the Covid-19 pandemic started, the government took many steps to continue education for children through TV and radio programs. However, there are still many bottlenecks which they need to overcome. The challenges of the EGE project are very true.”
Rasheda K Chowdhury, executive director of the Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), said: "We have to think holistically, truly from the bottom of our heart consider to what extent we are actually reaching children at present. We need an initiative that is holistic, inclusive, and equitable."
Shahed Alam, chief corporate and regulatory officer of Robi Axiata Ltd, said: "We need a National Strategy for our Education. We should prepare a hybrid model of education, a blend of normal education and digital education simultaneously. To develop any digital education, we need to consider three things: platform, content, and device."
Dr Narayan P Kafle, education director of Save the Children, said: "We have to share the learnings of the EGE project and we should work together to get a complete strategy for all.
Sharing field experiences, Brig Gen Ilyas Iftekhar Rasul, director and head of education at Friendship, said they are receiving a positive response from the field regarding the project’s alternative support for education during the Covid-19 pandemic, including the use of tablets to provide education to some of the students without TV access.