Even though most of the country's banks devote substantial funds to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), many of them remain reluctant to disburse funds in the education sector as a core part of their business.

Educationists said that the state-run and private banks should come forward to develop the country's education. They said that many poor students who come from rural areas of the country are getting the chance to enrol in top institutions like Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), or medical and public universities. Even then, these meritorious students have to fight to earn money to continue their study.

Dhaka University's Institute of Education and Research (IER) Professor Dr. S M Hafizur Rahman told UNB that education, health and life standards are key issues of human being. Others things will break down if education is lacking in a country. So there is no alternative to prioritising the education sector. Banks should be come forward here.

"Many meritorious students have to struggle to continue their study. Many of them earn by private tuition to pay their way. If they get proper financial support from banks through scholarship then they will do better things for the country obtaining knowledge," Dr Hafizur said.

Hafizur further added that the government should sit with authorities concerned of banks and encourage them to invest here more. So the Education Ministry can do advocacy in this regard.

According to the Bangladesh Bank (BB)'s half-yearly CSR reports (July to December-2018), the country's banks and non-bank financial institutions collectively spent Tk 279.97 crore as CSR expenditure in the period. Of them, banks spent Tk 277.50 crore.

"A total of 21 scheduled banks out of 57 spent '0 to 5' percent of their CSR expenditure on education. Around 12 banks did not spend in education sector. Besides, 22 non-bank financial institutions of 34 did not spend in the sector this period," the report also mentioned.

The BB's latest data read, "There are no state-run banks that spent more than Tk 1 crore in the education sector. Eleven scheduled banks spent more than one crore in the period." Of them, it was found that leading the way during this period was Prime Bank Limited, that spent a whopping Tk 50.44 crore. Dutch-Bangla Bank Limited (DBBL), which has a longstanding reputation for generous CSR spending in education, spent Tk 26.27 crore. Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd (IBBL) at Tk 4.91 crore, Bank Asia Ltd at Tk 2.78 crore, Exim Bank at Tk 3.23 crore, IFIC Bank Ltd at Tk 1.15 crore, Mercantile Bank at Tk 1.51 crore, National Bank Ltd at Tk 1.50 crore, One Bank Ltd at Tk 1.05 crore, Southeast Bank Ltd at Tk2.61 crore and Standard Chartered Bank at Tk 2.21 crore in the period."

Sagir Ahmed, the spokesperson for DBBL, claimed that they contribute the highest in education sector through awarding scholarships.

"The bank has given scholarships to the deserving students from huge number of applications following a set of criteria such as the applicants' academic results, financial insolvency and humanitarian concerns. Around 90 percent of the scholarships have been given to the rural students and 50 percent to female students," the DBBL spokesman said.

He also added that the scholarship awardees are generally higher secondary, graduate or post-graduate level students. At HSC level, the stipend works out to Tk 55,000 spread out over two years (per month Tk2,000 which annually raised at Tk27,500) and at graduation level, the stipend has a duration of three to five years, with a monthly payment of Tk2,500 rising to Tk 36,000 yearly.

"The bank awarded 3,031 HSC students and 3,986 students at graduation level in 2018. We have already invited through online applications for DBBL scholarships from meritorious students this year in need of financial aid who passed HSC/equivalent examination in 2019. Eligible and interested students can apply online from July 21 to September 15, 2019," Sagir added.

Zahid Munir, First Assistant Vice President of Al-Arafah Islami Bank Limited, said that the bank gives scholarship at only graduation level. The students of three-year courses including Madrasa's Fazil level and five-year courses including MBBS and engineers students can apply here.

"A student gets a total of Tk 44,000 every year. Eligible and interested students are invited for the scholarships from September to October each year," he also said.

Association of Bank Officers, Bangladesh (ABOB) General Secretary Anis Munshi said that the state-run banks are contributing a negligible amount in the neducation sector. Expenditure of CSR in the sector should be increased to develop it.

"If the central bank creates pressure on banks to increase expenditure in education sector then all would be conscious about this. We should change our attitude and increase funds for education," tadded Munshi, who works in a state-run bank.

Bristy Akter, a second year student of Accounting Department at Eden Mohila College, said that she is very happy with the terms of her stipend from DBBL.

"It could be very tough to continue my study if I did not get scholarship. Because my farmer father could not bear my education cost. Thanks to DBBL, I get Tk 2500 every month," she also said.

Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited was found to be another major spender in the education sector. A high official of IBBL confirmed that they are contributing to the education sector of the country for long, as part of their social responsibility.

"The bank gave stipends to 800 poor and meritorious students in the last year. This year's circular is under process," he also said, on condition of anonimity since ghe was not authorised to discuss the matter with the press.

He added that a rural student gets Tk3,000 while urban students get Tk5,000 per month. The bank devotes one percent of its total profits every year to CSR.

Talking about the expenditure on education in the banking sectors Dr Atiur Rahman, former governor of BB, said that during his tenure he formulated rules for the banks to spend in different sectors.

"Which banks do not abide by the rules? They should be properly monitored," he suggested.

Former BB Deputy Governor Khondkar Ibrahim Khaled told UNB, "There is no compulsion for banks to spend in the education sector. But there should be some rules about corporate tax waiver facilities. For example if bank authorities spend money in education sector from their CSR funds, they can be eligible for special waivers or tax rebates. Faced with such incentives, banks would decide what they will do."

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