Sonaton Shaha (not real name) is a recent graduate of Dhaka University. His father suffers from cancer. Sonaton and his university-going sister used to tutor students and earn money from it every month.
The profits of private tutoring supported their studies and their family living in rural areas – as their father had been the sole earning member of the family. At present, the brother and sister are afraid of food shortages and the discontinuation of their studies.
"My sister is a private university student. She has to pay a huge amount of money for semester and admission fees. We do not even have money for our family expenses," Sonaton said.
"Our tutoring stopped in March. We are now in trouble. We do not know how long this will last," Sonaton said.
This is not the only example. There are a good number of cases of individuals who are dependent on their income from tutoring or part-time jobs. Their families are also dependent on them.
According to the University Grants Commission, there are 40 lakh students studying at public and private universities and colleges in the country.
Most of the students come from lower-middle-income families – where their father or mother is the lone-earning member, according to a study by the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics.
Shahin, a student of Jagannath University, told The Business Standard that he tutored three students and got Tk7,000 monthly. However, the tutoring stopped two months ago.
"I need Tk5,000 per month and give the remaining Tk2,000 to my family. Now I am in big trouble. I do not know how I will bear the expenses," he said.
Kamrul, a student of Chittagong University, told this correspondent that his father is a poor farmer. He bears his own study expenditures by tutoring.
"As I cannot tutor students I am struggling to bear my expenses for this month. I do not know what will happen after the virus ends. If the virus outbreak is longer I will not be able to carry on with my academic career," he said.
Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam told The Business Standard that many students are dependent on their tutoring and part-time jobs that have now ceased.
"The students who maintain their study and family expenditures by tutoring students and getting part time jobs are facing a financial crisis. It would be unfortunate if any of them were to stop studying because of a financial crisis," he said.
"The government should make a list of the poor students from every university and college in order to give them loans or aid during the Covid-19 shutdown. It will not be a huge amount of money but it will save the academic careers of a good number of students," he said.
Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor Professor Akhtaruzzaman told The Business Standard that many students come from poor families. "We provide scholarships for those students who do not get financial support from their families. However, this is not sufficient.''
"We will definitely help the students who are in trouble. However, it would be good if the government also allocated some money for the poor students," he said.