Bangladesh to grant phone loans to students during lockdown
Bangladesh is set to provide financial support to help needy students buy smartphones or electronics for online classes amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
Academic activities in Bangladesh have been postponed since March 17 to stem the spread of the deadly virus among students. As of Saturday, the virus had killed 4,668 people in Bangladesh, while infections stood at 334,762 with 236,024 recoveries.
Authorities at academic institutions, including universities, however, launched online courses in April.
The country’s 46 public universities, which teach more than 500,000 students, including a large number of needy students from remote areas, began their online academic activities in May.
But due to the lack of economic solvency, many students in public universities are said to not have smartphones, depriving them of the opportunity to participate in online courses.
And the current cost of monthly internet plans wouldn’t be achievable for needy students either.
Assessing the realities on the ground, the national higher education regulator, the University Grants Commission (UGC), sent letters to 43 public universities on August 6 to provide lists of poor students who don’t do not have a smartphone and need financial support.
“Till today [Sept. 9, 2020] we had the lists of 23,587 students from 38 public universities for this loan, ”said Kamal Hossain, director of the commission.
Some universities, including the country’s main university in Dhaka, are expected to send the list this week.
“We will allocate an interest-free loan of 10,000 to 15,000 Bangladeshi taka [$119 to $178] every needy student to buy a smartphone, laptop or desktop computer so that they can join online classes during this pandemic time, ”Hossain told Anadolu Agency.
“Students will enjoy the relaxation of paying off the loan at any convenient time throughout their educational life.”
Meanwhile, UGC will also organize a special monthly internet package of 100 taka ($ 1.19) for students to ensure optimal participation in online courses.
Based on available records, online course attendance has been marked below standard from the start.
“We hope that student attendance should be raised to a satisfactory level in online courses after the launch of the new Internet package,” said Hossain.
Students demand fairness
University students have expressed concerns about the fairness in preparing lists of needy students.
“Almost a month ago, we received a form requiring to fill in the name, phone number, email address and annual income of the father,” Anadolu Md. Hasib told agency. , second year marketing student at a southern public university.
He said it would be best if the authorities only collected the forms from needy students.
“However, I appreciate this initiative and expect our university authorities as well as the UGC to follow the process fairly and without nepotism.”
Third-year marketing student Aysha Siddika Tithi said state-run mobile network services are very weak in many parts of the country.
“As we will receive the monthly internet package of 100 taka only under this mobile network service, I am confused as to the effectiveness of the initiative,” she added.
Equity to be granted
UGC chairman Kazi Shahidullah, however, said the commission asked university officials to stay clear of any political or other influence when preparing the list so that “only poor students are enlisted.” .
“This is a very timely step for our country where many needy students are deprived of education during this pandemic situation only for lack of money,” Shahidullah told Anadolu news agency.
He said that once the fund is sanctioned, it will be a permanent asset for needy students across the country in the future.
“We can allocate the same fund over and over again for the welfare of other needy students in the future when the students benefiting from the current program start returning it,” he said.
Citing the pandemic situation, he added: “We plan to complete the collection and disbursement of loans by this month.”
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