Many children living on the impoverished islands of the River Teesta (chars) are on the verge of dropping out of school, due to the rising cost of stationery and study materials.
Parents say they are already struggling to stay afloat due to rising prices for basic necessities. Today, they fear that they will no longer be able to pay for their children’s schooling.
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Getting an education in char areas is as difficult as swimming against the tide and rising costs only add to the burden, they added.
According to education experts, the loss of learning that has occurred during the pandemic has caused irreparable damage to students.
At present, peak dropout is expected in Nilphamari, Rangpur, Lalmonirhat and Kurigram schools.
Last year, schools reopened after being closed for a year and a half. Since then, student attendance has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
While primary education facilities can be found in some schools, higher education is still far away due to inaccessibility for the poor.
Tanks are ephemeral in nature, made from the ebb and flow of silt. Not all tanks have a school, and those that do have a hard time staying open. Like all char structures, schools are ephemeral and often need to be moved.
Additionally, teachers struggle to commute from the mainland, frequently missing classes.
With only a few schools running classes every day, students wishing to attend from surrounding floats must travel quite a distance.
These challenges lead many to give up. The girls get married and the boys find work to help with family expenses.
While the government provides free textbooks, without access to subsidized school supplies, it will be impossible to improve the literacy rate in char deprived areas, according to education experts.
During visits to certain neighborhood shops, this correspondent noted that prices had increased for all school supplies, including school uniforms, shoes, bags, pens, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, markers , loose papers, notebooks, geometry boxes, plastic boards, scales, calculators and colored pencils.
The price of an edge of white paper used by students to make notebooks is now Tk1,250, down from Tk750 two months ago.
Similarly, a ledge of newsprint is sold at 1,150 Tk, down from 700 Tk previously.
During this time, the price of ballpoint pens has increased by 15-20 Tk per dozen, and plastic whiteboards and geometric boxes are sold for twice as much.
Abdul Hadi (40), a rickshaw puller in the Chilmari upazila of Kurigram, has a child who is a student of Mondolerghat Govt Primary School.
He said, “We have to reduce meals in order to send my children to school.
Md Nuruzzaman (50), whose child attends Purba Satunama Aminpara Govt Primary School in Satunama Char in Dimla Upazila of Nilphamari, said: “I couldn’t afford a new pair of shoes and a bag for my child. The price of the cheapest pair of shoes is Tk600 and a regular school bag is Tk550, which were at Tk450 and Tk300 just a few weeks ago.”
Khalilur Rahman, Principal of Purba Satunama Aminpara Govt Primary School, said, “The school has a total of 250 students, most of whom come from families affected by river erosion. They come to class barefoot and without the necessary school supplies. can only understand their situation.”
The District Primary Education Officer, Nobez Uddin Sarker, said, “We are calling on the district administration to increase surveillance to arrest the union responsible for the price hikes of school supplies.