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Catholic schools in Bangladesh escape nationalisation net


DHAKA (UCAN): The government of Bangladesh announced on January 9 that it will nationalise all non-government primary schools in the country, with the exception of Catholic-run institutions, which will maintain their independence.

To be fully implemented by next January, nationalisation will see 26 of the 193 non-government primary schools being fully funded by the government at an annual cost of over 12 billion taka ($1.16 billion), according to the Primary and Mass Education Ministry.

Primary education in Bangladesh covers grades one to five and is completely free in government schools.

The 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.

“Nationalisation 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 treating students as if they were their own children.

The announcement was met by applause from the teachers at the rally. Nationalisation 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 salaries and benefits.

Many have been forced to do private tuition on the side just to make ends meet which, in turn, has contributed to poor education standards in school classrooms.

“For 22 years, we have been demanding nationalisation. I thank the government for finally paying heed to our cries,” said one school head, 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 ($481) per month. With nationalisation, it will rise to about 10,000 ($971),” Barmon said.

However, around 302 primary schools run by the Catholic Church, will not be part of the nationalisation scheme.

The Bangladesh Catholic Education Board oversees about 500 schools and colleges across the country; many are top ranked in their areas.

The secretary of the board, Holy Cross Brother Bijoy Rodrigues, said no Church school wants to be nationalised, because they foresee future problems, such as government meddling in school activities. Besides, teachers are already better paid and receive good benefits.

“The government will fully control nationalised schools, which means lack of control over teacher appointments and education standards,” Brother Rodrigues said.

He pointed out that in the past 20 years, at least 10 Church-run schools have been nationalised and the quality of education has dropped dramatically.


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