THE government is still far from its election pledge “eradicating illiteracy” made 12 years ago. The ruling party made the promise to eliminate illiteracy by 2014 but the statistics show that around one in every four people is still illiterate in Bangladesh, even though the AL-led government has been in power for three consecutive terms. In 2008, the literacy rate was 48.8 per cent which increased to 74.7 per cent in 2020. The government statistics also show that there are disparities in the literacy rates between rural and urban areas.
Educationists said that giving less priority to illiteracy became part of Bangladesh’s political culture while the promises made to the public are usually linked to election campaigns designed to sway the voters and easily forgotten later. The government officials, however, blamed poverty and unwillingness of the adult population to learn for the failure to reach the goal of eradication of illiteracy. According to official data, currently, 77.4 per cent men and 71.9 per cent women were literate. There are disparities in the literacy rates between rural and urban areas with 82.2 per cent literate in urban areas and 68.4 per cent in rural areas. We think the government does not give priority to eradication of illiteracy as people in power can easily manipulate the uneducated masses to gain their political end.
Since 2009, the government devised some interventions, including providing stipends, books and visits by teachers, to bring all the children of the country under roofs of schools to fulfil its promise of illiteracy-free Bangladesh. But there is no proper monitoring system to oversee. Only political campaign, data manipulation, salary increase, infrastructure development, stipend could not help to attend the goal of “eradicating illiteracy” until and unless the people living under lower poverty line get access to the social safety net, their living standard and food intake improve. The government, in this case, can learn from social initiatives and can employ the strategy to achieve the goal.