Wednesday, December 13, 2017 | ePaper

Escalators at Secondary Schools

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THE government's plan to set up escalators at 163 public secondary schools, mostly in district and upazila towns is a big project at a huge cost, Academics and economists look skeptically at the government plan and have termed it as 'waste of public money, unrealistic and bizarre' given the cost of procurement and maintenance that may include huge corruption and kickback in implementing the project.

As most of the secondary schools in the country lack sufficient teachers, classrooms, laboratories, libraries, playgrounds and other educational infrastructures, the government plan is nothing but 'over ambitious,' as per a report in a national daily.  The government plan is like putting the cart before the horse; as most of the schools need at first basic facilities including high rise building. Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education Director General SM Wahiduzzaman said that the plan to set up escalators was suggested by the Prime Minister to minimise the sufferings of students to use stairways. The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (NEC) in March approved a project to develop 323 government secondary schools with an estimated cost of Tk 4,640 crore. Directorate sources said that at the NEC meeting directed the authorities concerned to set up escalators instead of elevators in all government secondary schools in the country to make movement of young students easy when it comes to go upper floors.  According to the Direction, the directorate submitted a revised project proposal that included setting up escalators at 163 government schools with the estimated cost of Tk 1,116 crore, Planning Commission sources said.

While it is indeed a good idea which will also help handicapped and physically challenged students, there are indeed many other priorities that can't be ruled out before setting up such items. The promotion of basic infrastructure like computers, science labs, and high class sports facilities at schools should be encouraged by the government - not just escalators.

Also maintenance of them will be a big problem - government institutions are not prone to taking good care of their infrastructure. It needs highly skilled technicians and engineers and in all way will add tremendously to the cost of maintenance. Schools will need more money to increase tuition fees and put pressure on the government to increase annual allocation. Moreover, there are questions as to who will be awarded the project - certainly there may be accusations of corruption in the process of procurement and fitting. Therefore taking all these considerations into account it would be better for the government to develop the basic infrastructure facilities which schools need most before venturing into providing easier access for young people having enough energy to move alone. We must say school infrastructure must come first and then may take escalator project to make schools good places for teaching.

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