Despite the onslaught of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns, 10 million families across the country have had a little relief receiving the full stipend of primary school education for the fiscal year of 2021-22 with arrears, thanks to an innovative approach of Nagad, the mobile financial service of Bangladesh Post Office.
The payment, which also includes the stipend for one quarter of the fiscal year of 2019-20, four quarters of the last fiscal year and the allowance for accessories, was completed within three months after the government roped in the mobile financial service (MFS) operator for the project.
So far Nagad has disbursed Tk 35 billion among 10 million mothers of about 14 million primary-level students. Nagad also helped to bring down the cost of disbursement of the stipend to Tk 7 per Tk 1,000 from Tk 21.50 per Tk 1,000.
Diya Rani, a homemaker from Batiyaghata in Khulna, described the stipend as a blessing.
“It is truly a blessing during the pandemic. With the money, we can educate our children and meet their other expenses. We get the money on our mobile phone, so there are no hassles," she said, after receiving the stipend for her child, who studies in Class V.
Diya Rani is not the lone beneficiary of the technological revolution that has taken place in Bangladesh in recent years. Millions of people use MFS, including the marginalised people who never had access to formal financial services until MFS made the foray into the country.
Syed Shirin Sultana, headmaster of Jashore Government Primary School, said the upgrade in the stipend disbursement has eased the process and ensured transparency.
“The stipend programme has been running for three years now, and for the first time, the payment system has become hassle-free for teachers and guardians and ensured transparency thanks to the inclusion of Nagad,” she said.
Ganesh Pal Dipu, headmaster of Amberkhana Colony Government Primary School in Sylhet, said the process by which Nagad has created a national database to send money to mothers through mobile phones has eliminated a huge physical work.
"In the previous process, we had to maintain many registers and ledgers. We had to sit for several meetings with schools before finalising the list. Also, we had to combine 3-4 schools for the disbursement, fix a date, and invite guardians. It was a very tiring and cumbersome process. Now all those are things of the past," he said.
After the distribution of stipends was halted for almost a year, the Department of Primary Education signed an agreement with Nagad in December last year following an instruction of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Sohel Mollah, monitoring officer of the project, said, “It was a very challenging task for all the parties involved -- the government, Nagad, and teachers. Developing a database, making it functional and completing the disbursement in such a short time was simply next to impossible. But gladly, we have all pulled it off.”
Nagad's Managing Director Tanvir A Mishuk said although it was a tough task, Nagad was ready to stand up to the challenge riding on its innovative technology and dedicated team of professionals.
“We understood the gravity of the project the moment we were in. It is about facilitating the education of our future generations. I don't think anything could be more important than this. So, from Nagad, we went all out.”
“I would like to thank the concerned government officials and teachers, who actually made it possible,” he said.
REDUCING COST BY 70 PER CENT
Before the introduction of Nagad, the government had to spend Tk 21.50 per Tk 1,000 in cash-out charges and data management. As the government is now availing the service from state-run Nagad, the cost has gone down to Tk 7 per Tk 1,000. The recipients also got the full amount of cash-out charges from Nagad along with the stipend and allowances.
ZERO GHOST BENEFICIARIES
Immediately after assuming the responsibility, Nagad has created a database using the names of the students, their birth registration certificates, and the mobile phone numbers of their mothers or guardians. As a result, many ghost beneficiaries have been struck off the list, and transparency has been ensured. This has prevented the wastage of national revenue.
[The piece is provided by Nagad]