DHAKA: Last month’s flooding in northeastern Bangladesh has dealt a heavy blow to the country’s education sector as authorities estimate that it has kept hundreds of thousands of children out of school.
Millions of people were displaced, and dozens of others killed when heavy floods triggered by monsoon rains hit northeast Bangladesh in June. The South Asian nation witnessed intense rainfall that continued for days, causing the worst deluge that the country had seen in more than a century.
In the worst-hit Sylhet region, thousands of schools and colleges were forced to remain shut weeks after the devastating floods, leaving hundreds and thousands of students out of classes as authorities began assessing the extent of the damages.
Over 3,000 primary schools — more than half of the total in Sylhet — sustained damages during the floods, Dr. Nasima Begum, deputy director at the department of primary education in the region, told Arab News. Around 1.8 million children were enrolled in the primary schools, she added.
“Since more than half of the schools were affected by flood water, it is anticipated that the children of these areas were also affected,” Begum said.
“We have yet to complete the loss assessment because the floods have not completely receded in many areas,” she said. “We have plans to provide new books and education materials to the children when classes resume.”
Mohammed Nazrul Hakim, executive engineer at Sylhet’s education engineering department, told Arab News that buildings damaged in the floods are in dire need of repairs.
“The ground floors of the affected institutions have become unusable due to the floods. Students can’t have classes there without repair works being done,” Hakim said.
As hundreds of high schools and colleges in the region had also been damaged during the disaster, around 150,000 secondary students also had their final exams, initially scheduled to take place in June, postponed.
“More than 600 high schools and colleges were affected due to this flood,” Prof. Abdul Mannan Khan, director of Sylhet’s department of secondary and higher education, told Arab News.
Classes are expected to resume on July 19, but for most of the affected students, the “floodwater damaged many of their books and education materials,” Khan added.
When the unprecedented floods hit villages across northeast Bangladesh, most people only had enough time to save themselves and their loved ones.
“Saving our lives was the only concern during the flood,” 16-year-old Abdur Rahman Sohag told Arab News.
“It happened so quickly that I couldn’t manage to save any of my books.”
Sohag was among tens of thousands who were scheduled to take their final exams last month. But as the situation worsened and the final exams had to be postponed, a new date has yet to be announced.
Like Sohag, 16-year-old Sanjida Zahan Chowdhury also lost her textbooks in the floods, which had submerged her home in the Sunamganj district.
“Within half an hour at midnight, we found ourselves in around 1.5 meters of high flood water inside our home,” Chowdhury told Arab News, adding that she and her family had to wait eight hours before they were evacuated.
“Many of my books and notes were washed away. How can I sit for the exam without my books?”