• Many students who have worked as private tutors are passing miserable days
• Only a few students against an overwhelming number of tutors
• Guardians reluctant to appoint tutors to avoid Covid-19 infection
• Number of students seeking tutors down 70% compared to the pre-Covid-19 time
• Many students attending coaching classes conducted by their class teachers
Before the pandemic, Rakib Islam, a fourth-year student of Dhaka College, used to bear his educational expenses with the commission he would receive from providing private tutors. He has never faced any financial crisis since he started his organisation of a pool of private tutors.
But, since March 2020, Rakib's income gradually decreased as the demand for private tutors fell with a prolonged closure of educational institutions. Guardians stopped hiring tutors, and many discontinued the contracts with their tutors to avoid risks of infection and because of their own shrinking financial state.
Rakib – and many others like him who provide tutors and who give students tuition – are now struggling to survive in the capital.
"I come from a lower-middle income family in Kurigram. My father is a retired official of the Bangladesh Navy. I have to bear my educational expenses besides helping my family financially. I did not have any trouble doing that before the pandemic," Rakib told The Business Standard.
Rakib used to earn Tk70,000 monthly in 2019, but that decreased to a meagre Tk20,000 last year. "My earnings fell further this year – barely Tk10,000 monthly," he said.
Rakib now finds it difficult to run his organisation because the income has been far less than what he has to spend to run it.
"Many of my friends have left the business. I am still here because I have no other option," Rakib said.
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has severely affected the source of income of many students who maintained their educational expenses through giving students private tuition.
Md Jalal, a Dhaka University student who runs a tutor-providing organisation named Nirapod Tuition Seba, had to leave the capital after struggling hard to survive for 16 months.
Jalal said he had received a large number of applications from students of public and private universities who want to work as tutors for his organisation.
"Earlier, we sometimes did not have enough tutors and failed to meet the demand, but now we have many aspirants wishing to become private tutors, but the number of available students is insufficient. As a result, I could not run my business anymore."
Like Rakib and Jalal, numerous students who maintained the educational expenses from the income as private tutor are now passing miserable days with little income, or no income at all.
According to Bangladesh Tutor Providers' Association, the number of students seeking private tutors has declined by 70%, compared to the pre-Covid-19 pandemic situation. The organisation has 100 members.
ZI Nixon, managing director of the Teachers' Café, told TBS that he has been running his organisation for six years. But he is counting losses since the beginning of the pandemic in the country.
"The guardians do not want tutors as they want to avoid the coronavirus infection. They are reluctant to appoint tutors due to their declining income also. Some guardians want tutors on condition that the teacher must follow health guidelines," he said.
"Last week, I offered tuition through the Facebook page of our organisation. The guardian received 60 applications from the aspirants. Earlier, before the pandemic, the number of applicants used to be five to seven. In the last two months, our organisation counted losses worth Tk50,000 as it did not get expected offers from the guardians," he said.
Md Mainul Islam, executive member of the Bangladesh Tutor Providers' Association and also owner of Tutors' Club, told TBS that the number of aspirants wishing to become private tutors – mostly students – is increasing due to the financial crisis they are in. "Even some private job holders who lost their jobs because of the pandemic are now applying for tuitions," he said.
Md Mosaraf Hossain from Kurigram, a second year student of Dhaka University, said, "My family is unable to bear my educational expenses. During the first year, I earned my study expenditure by giving private tuitions. But now I am going through a tough time as I have had no tuition for about a year."
He said, "I can go back home, but it is not possible to attend online classes from my village due to the slow Internet speed. So, I have to stay in Dhaka."
Mosaraf fears he will have to leave Dhaka and stop his study if he cannot manage any tuition immediately.
Nuruzzaman, a fourth year student of Jagannath University, has been trying to get a tutor's job for several months, but in vain. "I went to every tuition-providing office I know. They told me that they have no offer."
He alleged that some providers even swindled his money he had paid for registering.
Guardians have also stopped private tuitions of their children.
Abdul Hannan, a retired government official, asked the private tutor of his son to manage tuition elsewhere as he cannot afford the expenses anymore.
"The amount I get in pension is not sufficient to bear my family expenses. I had a small business, but I had to close it due to the pandemic. Now I am paying my family expenses by borrowing money from relatives. I will have to leave Dhaka if the current situation does not improve soon," he said.
Razibul Islam, another guardian from Moghbazar area, told TBS that he has two sons and a daughter who are secondary and higher secondary students. They need private tutors, but he does not dare to appoint one fearing coronavirus infection.
"House tutors move here and there. They might be the carrier of the virus. So, I will not allow house tutors in my home until the pandemic situation improves," he added.
Online tuition increases
Sources at the Bangladesh Tutor Providers' Association meanwhile said many guardians are now willing to take online tutors.
"I provide tutors for English medium students. Since the beginning of the pandemic, many guardians have sought online tutors," Mainul Islam of the association said.
But he said the monthly salary for online tuition is less than what a tutor gets from conventional tutoring.
Many students are now attending coaching classes conducted by their class teachers in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country.
About 4.5 crore students from the pre-primary to higher education levels are enrolled in nearly 2 lakh educational institutions across the country. About 40 lakh of them are studying at higher educational institutions.
House tutors come from the higher educational institutions mostly.
On 16 March last year, the government decided to shut down all educational institutes and coaching centres from 18 to 31 March for the sake of students' safety from Covid-19 infection. The closure was later extended several times.
The government also cancelled the Primary School Completion (PSC), Junior School Certificate (JSC), and their equivalent exams last year due to the pandemic.
The PSC and JSC examinees were promoted automatically, while Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) students were assessed based on their JSC and SSC results. All students from the primary level to the secondary level were promoted automatically.
The government has decided to assess the SSC and HSC students in 2021 through assignment evaluation and exams on elective subjects.