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Friday, January 27, 2012

3000 education centres of indigenous peoples about to stop in CHT

3000 education centres of indigenous peoples about to stop in CHT

Four residential schools and three thousand and five hundred education centres of indigenous peoples across the CHT are about to stop due to non-extension of the ongoing project or non-approval to any new proposal. 
Under this circumstance, in the current academic session around 150 SSC candidates’ future is about to end up in uncertainty. Due to non-extension of the project’s period, the education for more than 700 students, who are living in the residential hostels and 68000 children in the remote areas, is under severe threat. 
The period of the Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP) expired on the 31 December 2011. Following this situation, the residential students were asked to leave hostels and stay at their homes until the further instructions. The supply of food for the SSC candidates had been stopped, as the food supply order from the contractor was suspended.
The officials of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board (CHTDB) and the ICDP reported that a new project with the total expenditure of Tk. 34.8 million was submitted to the government. They also added that as an interim arrangement a request was made to the Planning Minister for no-cost extension up to six months in order for keeping the project operational.  Until 15 January 2012 none of the said proposals got approval.   
This five year project was initiated in 1985, when it was revised twice. The project’s period also was extended twice, and the duration ended in 31 December 2010. With a special grant support from UNICEF, this project was implemented until 31 December last year, but no prior approval was received for the further extension of it.     
The Project Director of ICDP S M Zakir Hossain tells that it takes only three months for extension of a project under the “no-cost extension” provision. A few days back, a proposal was sent to the Planning Ministry; however, no initiative was taken yet.
Zakir Hossain also added that a Core Committee has been formed comprising a few officials both from the Ministry of CHT Affairs (MoCHTA) and the CHTDB to formulate a new proposal under the ICDP. Following several rounds of meetings, on last 29 December, a 5 year project proposal with Tk. 34.8 million was submitted to the concerned ministry. Tk. 18.6 million from the government and Tk. 16.2 million from UNICEF are expected to finance this project.  He also says that UNICEF in principle has agreed to support the project, although no memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed with it yet. Co-financed by the government and UNICEP, the CHTDB has been implementing activities under the ICDP on education, and maternal health and child care in Bandarban, Rangamati and Khagrachari Hill districts.    
The additional Project Director Jane Alam tells that 116 teaching and non-teaching staff for 700 indigenous students in the residential schools, 228 project employees, and 3500 village workers are employed in this project. Jane Alam also says, through the village centres more than 68000 children are provided with pre-school education. Alongside these centres are providing the maternal health and primary child care facilities including Vitamin A and iron tablets for children.   
It was alleged that such uncertainty with the project extension resulted from the lack of preparation well before on the side of the concerned officers. However, S M Zakir Hossain denied this allegation.  
Zakir Hossain says, although the project period has been over, still there remains Tk. 3.4 million unspent from the total budget allocation. Subject to the approval from the Planning Ministry, all project activities can be continued for next 6 months without any support either from the government or UNICEF.
In the meantime, news spreads around that no students will be admitted for the next year intake in several schools such as Mro Residential School in Sualok Upazila, Ruma Tribal Residential School in Ruma Upazila, Alikadam Tribal Residential School and Rajasthali Tribal Residential School in Rangamati, while residential students were also asked to leave the hostel. In this situation, indigenous leaders and concerned guardians are now anxious about the fate of their children’s education.
(This report has been prepared as per the news published in the Bangla daily ‘Kaler Kantho’ on 15 January 2012).
courtesy: Kapaeeng Foundation

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