228 CHT pry schools in limbo as donor funding ends

The academic life of about 16,000 students of 228 primary schools of the Chittagong Hill Tracts area hangs in the balance as the schools are on the verge of closing down. The students, guardians and teachers of the schools are living out their days in a state of anxiety as donor agencies have stopped funding the schools since June and the government is yet to take any full decision on nationalisation of the schools.

The nationalisation has become uncertain because of problems in land registration, said primary and mass education ministry officials. If these schools are forced to shut down, children will have to travel for up to three days to attend the nearest government primary schools, or most likely, not attend schools at all. This would be a serious setback to the progress in education among communities living in remote areas, said field-level education officials and  academics demanding the nationalisation of the  schools, treating them as special cases, as land registration in hill areas is difficult. At present, many teachers and students are not going to school or have become irregular.

There are about 1,000 teachers at the 228 schools – 86 are at Rangamati, 83 in Bandarban and 59 in Khagrachhari. There are a total 1,561 primary schools in the three hill districts, Rangamati in 600, 621 in Khagrachari and 340 at Bandarban, confirmed officials. There is huge difference between the plain-lands and hill areas as the latter still has a high rate of illiteracy and dropout. If these schools are closed many of the students will drop out, said an official of Rangamati district primary education office.

These non-government schools, in some of the remotest parts of CHT region, were set up by locals at different times and international development partners started funding the schools through the UNDP’s Support to Basic Education in CHT project, under its Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Facility project. These schools are managed by the Hill District Councils and funds are channeled through the CHTDF. ‘The project was scheduled to be closed in 2015.

The primary and mass education ministry has some criteria for schools to be nationalised.
For the third phase of nationalisation, schools need to have 30 decimals of land either registered or leased before May 24, 2012. Because of a long and complicated land registration process in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the 228 schools could not complete land registration by the deadline. (Source: 228 CHT pry schools in limbo as donor funding ends, The New Age, 26 July 2015; Kalerkantho 12 July 2015; and Manabkantho, 8 July 2015).