The second Millennium Development Goal aims to ensure all boys and girls complete primary school education up to grade 5. It's an aim that's widely supported by educationalists and the public.
Host: Shilmundi in Bangladesh, a village in the vast Delta in the south of the country. Like many villages across Bangladesh, it’s a farming community. The children here attend the local school and they’re doing their homework voluntarily. They’ve come together to study out of hours, a sign perhaps of their enthusiasm for learning. But the real question is how long they’ll be able to continue. Female: I want to study up to the final exam. I’ve taken a lot from my parents and in the future, I want to develop more. If I can’t look after my parents then at least I can look after myself. I think everybody should study. This gives the man understanding. They might miss out on earnings while being at school but it opens up opportunities and advantages to them. Host: Millennium Develop Goal Number 2 aims to ensure all boys and girls complete primary school education up to grade five. It’s an aim widely supported both by educationalists and the public. Dr. Mushtaq Khan: A lot of people including myself, we see education as a right. I think people have the right to be educated, and is unquestionably a productivity gain that comes from having higher education. Rahima Ghatun: To improve the nation, we need people to become educated. They have to study and they have to get a good result. The guardians and teachers have to be careful and attentive as well as the students. Female: I want to make my daughter well educated. My husband drives a rickshaw. We are poor but I still hope to educate my daughter. I studied very little up to year five and my husband didn’t study at all. Now, he wishes he had. If we studied, then we would have been in a better situation and have good jobs. We work in the fields and drive rickshaws. To achieve anything, we have to work very hard. Female: It’s painful. It’s better to die than live life like this in pain. My sister and I, we didn’t study which is such a shame. Female: I have a mouth but I’m mute. I have eyes but I can not see. If someone writes to me then I have to take it to somebody else to read it to me. If I had some education, I wouldn’t be sitting like this. I could have got a job and stand on my own two feet and help myself. Host: In Bangladesh, primary schools are free and its estimated attendance is high but not yet universal for a variety of reasons, not least, the need for children to bring in an income. Dr. Mushtaq Khan: The basic problem not just in Bangladesh is that if people don’t see how education will raise their earning capacity and get them a job, well, they’re giving up the opportunity of earning immediately by getting an education which is very good and is very good for human dignity but is an economic cost and this is the problem that very poor people are actually being quite rational because they see the quality of education that is on offer. They see what they’re going to learn and they see that at the end of the day when other people have left school or college with that kind of education, they often don’t earn a lot more. Host: But even where children do attend, primary school education stops at the age of 12. After that, 98% of secondary schools are private and their fees, very school by school. This cost is compounded by the lost of income children could be earning. It’s one of the obstacles to them continuing school as well as cultural pressures which particularly affect girls. Rahima Ghatun: Still, there are families who don’t value education. Those girls who got a first class pass have been married off and are just doing the housework and it hurts me really badly. If they were continuing education, they could get a good job and a higher status but they don’t get the opportunity. Dr. Mushtaq Khan: They’re asking parents to say “Send your girl to school or college.” Their relatives are saying “That will make your daughter unmarriageable.” That is the only option which many people have for living then you’re actually reducing the options for your daughter, not increasing them. Female: Many girls really want to study but the parents won’t let them. They say their daughters have to be married off. Female: Girls situations are worse. They want to live a good life but many of them suffer from no source of income. Nilafur Ahmad: Girls before used to get married very early, average age of marriage was 13, 14. And a lot of maternal death, infant death was really high in Bangladesh like in other South Asia and one of the factors was because the girls marry very early and early pregnancy, frequent pregnancy was the main cause of maternal morbidity, mortality and infant mortality. Secondary education, her job prospect would be better. At the same time, it delays the marriage. Female: I’m going to be in year 10 and it’s up to my parents how much longer I stay at school.