Around 38 million students were affected due to the COVID 19 related closure in Bangladesh. Students from rural areas have faced difficulties during the pandemic to cope up with online education. The education turned virtual but there was no such framework, guidelines and need-based arrangements for a smooth operation of online learning. While the pandemic negatively impacted the students, the crisis for the poor, vulnerable and rural students were multifaceted. The present study highlights the challenges faced by the students in rural Bangladesh to identify the issues of accessibility, approaches and adaptability of online learning during the COVID 19 pandemic. Based on the empirical research among the poor and vulnerable communities in rural areas, it shows that the rural students are suffered more from the economic hardship and inability to access online education than the mental health related issues which is a prime concern for the students located in the urban sphere. Students belonging to the urban areas could access and adapt to online education quickly due to the availability of internet and communication devices. But the severe lack of means and infrastructure for virtual class and online learning have left the rural students in deep trouble. It is important to note that more than 60 per cent of the rural households lacked access to the internet and smartphones while around 70 per cent of the students at primary, lower and higher secondary are located in rural Bangladesh. Electricity is not easily accessible and affordable for the rural poor. Therefore, the initiatives including remote learning via television or setting up multimedia classrooms in the remote areas did not contribute to the smooth e-education for rural students during the pandemic. More importantly, the dropout from school and risk of early as well as child marriage multiplied since the students were unable to cope up with online education. The study provides some crucial insights from the ground relating to the socio-economic challenges and costs of pandemic-led online education in rural Bangladesh. It indicates an inclusive and accessible remote learning strategy for the poorest and most vulnerable students in Bangladesh.
Monirul Islam, International University of Business Agriculture and Technology, Bangladesh
Sardar MD Shaheen, SIMEC Institute of Technology, Bangladesh
Ratan Kumar Roy, International Research Center, SIMEC Institute of Technology, Bangladesh