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Covid -19 vs. Sustainable Development: A View on Education

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Ridwan Bin Wali Ullah

It cannot be denied that ‘Education is the backbone of a nation’. Yes, it is a proverb. But it is also universal truth that our Lord Allah swt started sending revealed knowledge to his prophet Muhammad (sm) by quoting a very important word of education that is ‘read’. So no nation can prosper without developing their education sector. All developed countries allocate a big amount of budget for education sector. To build a peaceful and sustainable world, there are some goals set by UN. Quality education is one of the most important 17 global goals of SDGs-2030.

Education is not mere a goal among SDGs. It should be considered as the main agenda to make the SDGs successful. It is crystal clear to every conscious citizen that we are passing a very crucial period of world history due to Covid-19 pandemic. The heartbreaking pandemic has crucially affected our education sector. In general all educational institutions have been closed for uncertain time. But it was not a fare solution. Declaration of Education Ministry to run virtual classes came very lately.

Primary education is the root of any developed educational system, what is being very dangerously affected in present pandemic. According to ‘The World Economic Forum Covid Action Platform’, 1.5 billion children are out of school. Beside it, Covid is hurting children’s mental health, quoted in the report. However, we are not concerned enough about the matter. UNICEF and ILO reported that the pandemic will push a large number of children into child labour, though the World Day against Child Labour’s slogan was ‘Covid-19: Protect Children from Child Labour, now more than ever! Bad impact of Covid-19 will increase the number of dropped students and child marriage, said in a report of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE).

So it is high time to take some decision to face the worst time ever. We have to ensure primary education for every child of the country to confirm sustainable development for the new generation. It is optimistic news for Bangladesh that SDGs index 2020 showed the country has improved its ranking from 116 to 109 according to the daily observer news on 4 July, 2020. But we should not forget that we are before a great challenge of Covid-19 pandemic, which can push us into a terrible situation.

We love to call Bangladesh as a digital country. But it is shamefully viewed in our sight that many of our educational institutions, even some leading universities, don’t care of this issue. It’s very strange that we live in the revolutionary age of modern science and technology but we don’t want to utilize the modern facilities of global technologies. We try to go to abroad for higher education but very unfortunately we are not following the exemplary activities of globally recognized universities all over the world showing a lame excuse of week internet connection system though most of the teachers of leading universities in Bangladesh are awarded their higher degrees from many prestigious universities of the world.

It’s very easy for universities and colleges to run their classes virtually. The teachers will take classes using modern apps like Stream yard, Zoom App, Facebook Live, YouTube, Google classroom etc. and give project, assignment and tutorials that the students will submit within due time through email for evolution and numbering. Yes, it is very tough for medical colleges and science and engineering students, because they have to use different scientific tools in the laboratory but we should try as much as possible to overcome losses for this pandemic.

In primary, secondary and higher secondary level, three party alignment should be ensured to overcome the situation. Government should play prime party role. They organized online classes through Sangsad TV. But it is not enough to keep the child in right track in this wholesale closure of schools. Providing strong internet connection by lowest price is must from the government to ensure virtual classes.

Another party is school authority. They should perform the key responsibility taking perfect formulas to ensure the quality teaching for their students such as taking virtual classes through above mentioned available modern apps as much as possible, uploading recorded video of classes in respective Facebook page or YouTube channel, giving particular lesson, homework or assignment and taking feedback from the students according to regular class routine through mobile inbox, especially in rural area, or different type of apps like class tune what is using now in a renowned college in Dhaka Cantonment naming Shaheed Bir Uttam Lt. Anwar Girls College, taking oral or written tutorial exam within short time. Application of these five formulas (virtual class, uploading recorded video of classes in respective platform, giving homework, taking feedback and oral or written test) can help us to save our children from the great loss of Covid-19 pandemic.

Parents and guardians are the third but final key to implement this mission. So the proper taking care of students should be assured from guardians. In the case of the poorest students, some special steps should be taken. Teachers can provide hand notes, Government should allocate special intensives for some teachers who will help unable students to be connected with internet and special amount of money for internet connection with emergency relief through proper channels to ensure the right of education beside food and health care. Uploading recorded video of classes in respective platform will be very helpful for those who don’t attend the class in due time for internet or electricity trouble because of living in rural area. Excuse of not having smart phone, even of minimum cost, in Bangladesh is unbelievable. Special plan as situation should be taken for Flood-hit area.

I think these proposed ways can help us to run our education system as ETL, emergency teaching and learning, in this pandemic time, with combined efforts of Government, rich men, NGOs, private company and different volunteer organizations, what will help us to achieve the most important goal, quality education, of SDGs-2030. Rabab Fatima, the President of the Executive Board of UNICEF and permanent representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, emphasized prioritizing distance learning for children during Covid-19 pandemic time. It should be kept in our mind that we are looking for alternative prescription of teaching and learning in crisis moment not for normal time. So we should take it positively. We have no chance to go to debate that we take this process or not?

(Writer is columnist, researcher and M. Phil Fellow in Islamic University, Kushtia and can be reached at Email: ridwanullah88@gmail.com)

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