Turnout in class dropping off
The number of students in classrooms of secondary schools has been dropping since September 12, when the schools reopened after over one and a half years.
According to Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE) data, absenteeism has been growing in secondary schools for the last two weeks.
On September 12, 67 percent of the 43.31 lakh students of 14,817 schools attended classes. On September 18, 48.01 lakh students of 16,690 schools attended classes, and on Saturday, 56 percent of 42.33 lakh students of 15,860 attended classes. The number of schools vary because not all the schools report to the DSHE every week.
Educationists attributed the growing absenteeism to families needing the children to work, parents unwilling to send children to school amid the pandemic, and students feeling that they can make better preparation for the exams at home rather than attending only two classes at schools every day.
Attendance of class-X students fell by 15 percentage points, class-XII students by 11 percentage points and class-V students reduced by 2 percentage points, the data shows.
Attendance at secondary schools was between 75 and 80 percent in the pre-pandemic period, according to DSHE Director (Monitoring and Evaluation), Professor Amir Hossain.
The current absenteeism is more prevalent among students from rural, urban poor and underprivileged groups, he said.
Prof Amir believes that many of the families hit by the coronavirus restrictions are likely to have engaged the students in income generating activities.
However, the poor attendance does not mean that these students have dropped out. "Ninety-three percent of the SSC examinees are submitting their assignments to the schools."
DSHE collects the daily attendance rate of class-V students who will sit for the Primary Education Completion Exams. It also collects student attendance rates of class-XI , -XII, and -X.
Students reading in the aforesaid grades are supposed to attend classes in person every day.
According to DSHE, the attendance rate in class-V was 71 percent on September 12 and it dropped to 69 percent on Saturday.
In class-X, and in the classes held for the SSC candidates, 76 percent and 69 percent students attended on September 12 and 61 percent and 62 percent respectively two weeks after.
Attendance rates in classes -XI and -XII were 59 percent and 53 percent on September 12 and 50 percent and 42 percent on Saturday.
Mahbubur Rahman, a parent from the capital's Jatrabari, said, "I will send my son to school, when I see that coronavirus infections are not rising after the schools reopened."
An HSC candidate of Dhaka Commerce College said, "I can prepare for the exam better at home. The commute takes a lot of time."
Prof Amir said the government has plans to increase the number of classes next month.
Campaign for Popular Education Deputy Director KM Enamul Hoque said many students are not attending classes because they are working.
"Many students are finding it hard to understand the lessons because of learning losses during the closure. They are losing their interest in joining the classes," he said.
Teachers, school management committee members and parents should work together to get the students back to school, he added.
Prof Amir said school teachers are contacting the absent students and trying to bring them back to the classrooms.
Meanwhile, two class-X students of Bogura Zila School, who had attended classes, tested positive for coronavirus, Shayamapada Mustafy, headteacher of the school, told our correspondent in the district.
The teacher added that no other students have shown symptoms.