Many children in Netrokona's Khaliajuri upazila, which is called the island of haor area, are being deprived of education as there is only one government primary school in the four wards of the Sadar union.
According to people concerned, the lack of primary schools in the area is an obstacle to achieving the government target of universal primary education.
They said the government is committed to setting up a primary school in every village of the country, but each of the 22 neighbourhoods of the union is larger than the size of average villages of the upazila.
As a result, many children are being forced to go to NGO schools or kindergartens.
Indrajit Barman, headmaster of Khaliajuri Model Government Primary School, said, "According to a 2021 survey, the number of children aged up to 10 years in Khaliajuri is 1,110. Of them, 471 are admitted to this school.
"Most of the remaining 639 children are studying in two semi-formal primary schools run by NGOs, one kindergarten, one madrasah, and one school run by a temple."
Many children in the area are not going to any of these alternative schools, he said, adding there is also dissatisfaction among the locals about the standard of education in these institutions.
Indrajith Barman also said, "Khaliajuri Primary School has only four classrooms which are not enough for around 500 students.
"To ensure quality education, a maximum of 35 students should be accommodated in one classroom. But here we have to teach around 100 students in some classes. It is not possible to overcome this situation without establishing new schools in the area."
"The infrastructure of the government primary schools should also be developed to tackle the situation," he further added.
Sanwaruzzaman Joseph, chairman of Khaliajuri Union Parishad, said the population of the village is more than 7,500 and most of the government and private offices are located in the village. As a result, many people involved with these offices also live here.
The only primary school in the village established in 1930 cannot accommodate all the children who are eligible for basic education, he said.
Several areas of Khaliajuri become isolated from the Sadar union in the rainy season. At that time, it becomes hard for the students from those areas to come to the school by boat.
Sanwaruzzaman Joseph said, "Children from Laxmipur, Siddiqpur, Rupnagar, Nayapara, Kistupur, and Baniapara areas have to come to school from far. Besides, Laxmipur, Rupnagar and Siddiqpur areas are also completely isolated from the Sadar area. In the rainy season, the residents have to commute by boat."
Abul Hossain, a resident of the Muslim Hati area of Khaliajuri, said, "Students from the villages which are isolated from the union could not go to the school during the rainy season. Due to this, many students are dropping out of school."
Sumon Chakraborty, vice chairman of Khaliajuri upazila, said, "There are two secondary schools in Khaliajuri. But there is only one primary school. At least, two more primary schools are needed here."
The local administration has already taken steps to set up two more primary schools in the area. A proposal in this regard has also been sent to the authorities.
Rafiqul Islam, education officer of Khaliajuri upazila said, "Only one primary school in such a big area cannot meet the demand of education for so many children. That's why we have sent a proposal to the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education to set up two more primary schools in Laxmipur and Krishtapur."
According to official data, there are 63 primary schools in 70 villages under six union parishads of Khaliajuri upazila.
District Primary Education Officer Md Obaidullah said, "There is a government project to set up a government primary school in a village without school. We are in touch with the higher authorities to establish one or two more schools in Khaliajuri under that project."
Md Obaidullah further said, "There are many more places in the haor areas where the number of schools is less than the population or number of children. We are taking necessary steps regarding them too."