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A lesson for our schools

  • Published at 12:01 am October 8th, 2016
A lesson for our schools
Our Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid recently said that the government cannot know about the irregularities in schools, as parents never lodge any grievances to the authorities about them.

The government only comes to know about the irregularities from the mass media, he further claimed.

I appreciated the minister’s shout-out to the journalists for helping out in fixing our educational institutes. But I also feel like issuing a note of caution to the minister for engaging the media as the only source of information.

The government itself should have its own fact-finding mechanism about the state of affairs of the nation’s educational institutions.

However, as long as he and his ministerial team get the information, we, the common people are happy.

I wish I could meet our minister and hold a long meeting to tell him what our generation went through and our children go through in our educational institutions as far as irregularities are concerned. Some of our parents had similar experiences regarding schools and colleges.

If our experience is any indicator, parents are quite scared of school authorities, as they think their children would be ill-treated if they inform the government about any irregularities.

Bangladeshi school authorities are not yet ready to talk about any kind of irregularities on their part. They think everything they do is right.

Allow me to cite an example of this specific attitude: A few years ago, an English-medium school suddenly raised its tuition fees by an unusual scale. Some parents were opposed to it, even going to court with the issue.

While the matter was being dealt with in court, the school authorities weren’t taking any fees. However, when the issue was finally resolved, the parents paid the tuition fees for their children.

The parents, who went to court, also wanted to pay the arrear, but the school authorities refused to take any money from them and started giving their children the cold shoulder so to speak.

The parents were compelled to find a new school for their children.

The government monitors the activities in many sectors such as apparel, telecom, banking, etc. However, there’s no such mechanism to monitor what’s happening in the educational institutions. The possible problems that are faced by the students go grossly unnoticed

There have been various such incidents where parents of the students stopped complaining against any irregularities of the schools their children attended. Whatever happens at the schools remains inside those walls and in the minds of the parents.

There are schools that charge exorbitant fees but the parents don’t talk about it.

The government monitors the activities in many sectors such as apparel, telecom, banking, etc. However, there’s no such mechanism to monitor what’s happening in the educational institutions. Yes, of course, we have upazila education officers who keep an eye on the regulatory aspects of the educational institutions, but the possible problems that are faced by the students go grossly unnoticed.

This is an unspoken area -- a kind of taboo. Parents don’t talk about them even if their children face any kind of problem at the places of learning. The school authorities don’t show any eagerness to resolve the issues if parents raise their voices against them.

Running an educational institution is a huge responsibility -- they pave the way for any nation’s future, after all. In our country, we have already seen that students are often made subject to excessive use of physical force or corporal punishment at schools. The institutions often restrict, and even violate, students’ rights, and they also sometimes fail to address any special needs of students.

The government needs to display more agency in tackling these issues. There has to be a protectionist approach to parents who might come up with complains of irregularities.

There is a pressing need for some form of mechanism that would protect our children from being victimised by educational institutions when they learn that the parents of a particular student have rightfully lodged a complaint against them.

It’s the government who should provide courage to the parents.

Ekram Kabir is a writer.

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