The University Grants Commission considers providing 41,501 public university students with Tk 8,000 each interest-free loans so that they can buy smartphones and attend online classes amid the pandemic.
The money will come from UGC’s own funds.
The regulatory body of universities had sought the funds from the education ministry, but since it is taking time to respond, the UGC wants to go ahead with the project on its own.
“We don’t have the end of Covid-19 [pandemic] in sight. We did not get any concrete answer from the government. If we don’t give the money right away, students who can’t afford to buy smartphones will further lag behind in their studies,” a UGC member said.
He said they wrote to the ministry in June, seeking the funds.
The member also said the UGC had initially planned to give Tk 15,000 to each student. But they cut it down to Tk 8,000 as the amount is enough to buy a smartphone.
Contacted, UGC Chairman Prof Kazi Shahidullah said, “We’re considering to provide Tk 8,000 to each student who needs the financial assistance to buy the phones, from our own resources.”
He said they would meet today to discuss the matter.
Talking to this correspondent, UGC member Prof Muhammed Alamgir said an announcement in this regard would come in a day or two.
Lists of students requiring the money to buy the phones for getting connected to the classes have already been prepared by the universities concerned.
“We will give the money to the universities and they will disburse it among the students. The universities will take steps to collect the installments and pay us the money back.”
“We’ve decided that Tk 8,000 is enough to buy a smart phone through which a student can join online classes from home,” he said, when he was asked why the amount was revised.
The UGC boss said it would be interest-free loans and the universities concerned would fix the installment amount and repayment procedures. “If any student fails to pay the loan money, they won’t get their educational certificates and won’t be allowed to take part in their convocation.”
He refused to comment when he was asked why the government hadn’t disbursed the money yet.
Like schools and colleges, public universities have been taking classes online since they were closed in March to stem the spread of coronavirus.
A huge number of students, however, could not join the classes for having no smartphones or laptops, which they can’t afford.
In such a situation, the UGC in August asked the public universities to prepare lists of students who can’t come online for not having smartphones.
NEED THE DEVICE
Thirty nine public universities sent lists of 41,501 students who need the assistance. The total number of students at the universities is 3,04,414.
Authorities of the universities said on average 14 percent of their students would need the assistance to buy the smartphones.
A university in Netrakona sent a list, saying 20.39 percent of their 201 students would need the money. It is the highest percentage among the universities, said a UGC member.
Khulna University of Science and Technology, on the other hand, had the lowest percentage. Only 3.36 percent of their 5,860 students need the assistance.
Dhaka University authorities said 19.89 percent of their 43,000 students require the money to buy the phones. Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology seeks assistance for 19.18 percent of 7,500 students, Jahangirnagar University for 17.80 percent of 12,921 students, Jagannath University for 15.63 percent of 19,230 students, Chittagong University for 15 percent of 25,000 students and Rajshahi University for 12.40 percent of total 38,257 students.
Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology, Mawlana Bhashani Science and Technology University, Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Bangladesh University of Professionals and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Aviation and Aerospace University sought the assistance for less than 10 percent of their students.