Sunday, September 24, 2023

Five districts have very low literacy rate

Kamrun Nahar Sumy

Five districts lag far behind in literacy rate from the national average, among people aged seven and above, which has increased to 74.66 per cent, according to the preliminary report of the Population and Housing Census 2022.

The rate of literacy, defined as the ability to read and write, was 51.77 per cent in the previous census carried out in 2011.

The latest report shows that the Jamalpur district has the lowest literacy rate, which is 61.50 per cent.

Besides, the rate is 63.57 per cent in Sherpur, 63.64 per cent in Bandarban, 64.77 per cent in Sunamganj and 64.99 per cent in Kurigram.

Asked on Thursday, officials of the Bureau of Non-Formal Education and experts cited poverty, short-term literacy projects, the Covid pandemic, various forms of discrimination, the lack of accountability of the authorities concerned and the absence of awareness as reasons for such low rates in the five districts.

Dhaka University professor emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury blamed the state’s negligence, marked by the lack of accountability of the relevant organisations, for the literacy gaps.

‘It is the state’s responsibility to increase the literacy rate. However, the state is neglecting its responsibility in many ways, including ensuring no accountability for the organisations working in this regard,’ said the educationist.

He suggested building cultural movements by political parties and politically conscious people to improve the situation.

There are many char areas, a BNFE official said, in Jamalpur, Sherpur, Sunamganj and Kurigram with poor communication infrastructures and institutional facilities.

‘Due to poverty, adults in such char areas prefer to work over spending three hours on learning for five days a week. Parents, too, choose to engage their children in work, though the literacy project is free. A person can earn up to Tk 500 a day,’ the official said, adding that about a two-year closure of literacy projects during the pandemic also impacted the rate in these areas.

Regarding the low literacy rate in Bandarban, the official explained that people of the district lived in hard-to-reach isolated hill areas, adding that monitoring the learning progress was difficult there as it took a lot of time to reach one learning center from another.

The official viewed that the literacy rate could be increased in the low-performing districts, if a long-term non-formal education development programme approach was undertaken for them.

‘We had proposed to the authorities for such an approach in 2019, but the proposal was not accepted,’ the official added.

Dhaka University former professor of English Syed Manzoorul Islam noted that there were huge discriminations — mainly economic, development and digital — in the districts that performed poorly in literacy rate.

‘The literacy rate will only increase if discriminations are considerably reduced. Besides, the definition of literacy has changed now. One’s ability to sign their names does not mean that they are literate; instead, how much they are empowered after being literate is what counts. In terms of the latest definition, we are far behind in literacy rate,’ said the professor.

To reduce the literacy gaps, he suggested introducing digital learning in the areas that are hard to reach and creating awareness among families of the importance of literacy.

BNFE director general Md Abul Kalam Azad refused to comment on the issue.

Pointing out that poverty plays a vital role in low literacy rates in the low-performing areas, Campaign for Popular Education deputy director KM Enamul Hoque said that factors like high school dropouts, child marriages and low access to education are high in poor areas.

According to the Population and Housing Census 2022 preliminary report, the literacy rate is higher among males, 76.56 per cent than among females, 72.82 per cent.

The Dhaka division boasts the highest literacy rate — 78.09 per cent — while Mymensingh the lowest — 67.09 per cent.

The literacy rate in urban areas is 81.28 per cent and 71.56 per cent in rural areas.

According to the Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2022 released by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics in April 2023, both income and consumption inequalities in the country have widened further over the past six years while poverty decreased by 5.6 percentage points in the period despite the Covid pandemic.

The income inequality in the country stood at Gini coefficient of 0.4999 in 2022, up from 0.482 in 2016 and 0.458 in 2010. A smaller Gini Coefficient signifies a less unequal distribution of the national wealth.

The overall poverty dropped to 18.7 per cent at the national level in 2022 from 24.3 per cent in 2016.

The rate of poverty in the rural area dropped to 20.5 per cent in 2022 from 24.4 per cent in 2016 while the rate in the urban area fell to 14.7 per cent from 18.0 over the period.

Planning minister Abdul Mannan could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts over phone.

Article originally appeared on New Age.

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