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Bangladesh - A Developing Country
Bangladesh - A Developing Country
A Developing Country
Bangladesh came to existence in 1971 when Bengali East Pakistan seceded from its union with West Pakistan. It is located in southern Asia bordering the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and India. Bangladesh and West Bengal form a region which is called Bengal; and Bangladesh is sometimes referred to as East Bengal. It has a population of around 141.34 million people (Weatherby, 2007). The nation’s rapid growth has led to serious overcrowding. About one third of this extremely poor country floods annually during the rainy monsoon season, causing for bad economic development. Bangladesh has three main seasons; tropical, mild winter that lasts from October to March, a hot humid summer that goes from March to June, and a humid, warm monsoon season that brings them back to October. The terrain of the country is mostly flat plains across the country and hilly on the southeast side. Bangladesh shares many cultural and geographical features with nearby West Bengal. The country has come so far in the last few decades by gaining their independence. The educational and government systems of Bangladesh have improved greatly (Education).
History and Geography
Bangladesh is a proud nation built on the foundation of a rich literary tradition and history. As they finally one their independence from Pakistan in 1971 after many years of struggle, the masses of people that once made East Pakistan and East Bengal cheered as they finally gained their independence. As this youngest nation of South Asia was free to chart their own destination, with high hopes of becoming a better nation. But soon all that high hopes and expectations were gone, and Bangladesh soon drowned into a pool of poverty. For an average Bangladeshi, life is a daily struggle between existence and hunger. The same force that brings the monsoon rains, also unleashes deadly cyclones and flooding. Lives are lost, properties damaged, and crops are ruined. Some areas are immersed in massive floods and brought to a standstill, when other parts of the country are brought prolonged droughts. It is no wonder the terrain of the struggle has shifted from political independence to economic survival. Yet, it gets worse as Bangladesh finds itself in the middle of a large and growing population, the illness and environment keep deteriorating. Bangladesh is the third largest country of south Asia, slightly smaller than Iowa. Each year Bangladesh adds about 3 million people to their population. (Bangladesh Population growth)
Bangladesh usually enjoys a tropical monsoon climate, characterized by high temperatures over 70 degrees F. However the rain causes an increase in precipitation. About 80 percent of the rainfall in Bangladesh occurs during the summer. This season is characterized by high humidity and high temperatures. The average annual rainfall varies fro m57 inches to 117 inches, with the hilly regions receiving more (Shrestha). That is more rain than our annual average snowfall in St. Cloud. Every year during the summer, almost one third of Bangladesh is flooded since 1954, there have been twelve occurrences of tremendous floods, six of which (1954, 1955, 1977, 1987, 1988, and 1998) were devastating. The most recent two floods were the most disastrous in recent history. Although several thousand people in Bangladesh become homeless during normal flood season, during the 1998 flood more than 60 million were uprooted from their homes and as many as 1500 people were killed. This flood damaged nearly half a million homes. The estimated damage exceeded $3.5 billion.
On top of the rains are the tropical cyclones. Bangladesh usually averages six per year. Since 1960, Bangladesh has had six major cyclones. In 1965 alone, three cyclones occurred, each killing nearly 15,000 people. Although they usually only last a few days, the damage can be enormous, usually more destructive than floods. Then there is the drought, whose impact is slower but very prolonged. The area that is most effected by drought is the northwestern region of the country, which is relatively drier than most regions. In addition to these most visible problems, Bangladesh suffers from a presence of arsenic in the tubes of their well water. Nearly 76 million people were believed to be infected by arsenic poisoning from contaminated tube wells. Long-term exposure to arsenic could lead to skin, lung, or bladder cancer. Since the mid-1970s, nearly 4 million tube wells have been installed. Today, 96 percent of the population obtains their drinking water from tube wells (Shrestha).
The history of the economy of Bangladesh has been agriculture and other rural activities such as fishing and raising animals. Currently this sector employs nearly 50 percent of the labor force. With the population growing, agriculture is practiced very intensely. Most of the food crops that are under cultivation are food grains such as rice. Rice alone occupies nearly three-fourths of the total crop land and accounts for nearly 90 percents of all cereal production in Bangladesh. In 1998, total rice production in Bangladesh alone was 28.29 million tons (Bangladesh Economy). Wheat and other cereals such as millet and barley account for the other ten percent of cultivated land and about eight percent of wheat production. Wheat production grew rapidly in the 1970s, in 1999; Bangladesh produced nearly 1.9 million tons of wheat. Potatoes, chilies, legumes, and oil seeds are also grown. Most farmers are small land owners, owning less than 1.5 acres of land. Over time the distribution of land has worsened, the bottom 60 percent of the total farm households own less than 25 percent of the land, whereas the wealthiest 10 percent own 50 percent.
Rural Bangladeshi’s rely heavily on livestock. Livestock serves many proposes for them, such as, plowing land, transportation of products, a source of fertilizer for farming land, food, and after they die they use their hides to make leather. Leather is also a major export product of Bangladesh. Fish is perhaps the most preferred food in Bangladesh. Fisheries account for 12 percent of national exports. An article from the COMTEX stated that Bangladesh was one of the worst trade performers in Southern Asia. They were calculated at about 3.5 percent of regional trade compared to 72 percent form India. Bangladesh imported goods worth 147 million US dollars in fiscal 2002/2003, against its exports of 32.66 million dollars. However in another article I found that Bangladesh has marked faster economic growth in the last decade than the progress that took place in the 1980s. (Bangladesh Economy)
Along with economics comes poverty, Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world. Poverty is not only being without food, but with that also comes sickness. When their health is suffering they have little hope of moving out of the poverty trap, with that comes a poor education or no education at all and the over all result is the passing of poverty from one generation to the next. In 1996, 41 million were below the poverty line. The landless and near landless are considered to be poor. In the urban areas, over 90 percent of the slums and are classified as poor. Despite the challenges, Bangladesh is doing better than expected, and the current trend indicates that the economy is at a growing rate comparable to many underdeveloped countries.
At the time of independence, Bangladesh inherited a system of British education, was introduced during the colonial era. This led to the growth of an elite class that provided clerical and administrative support to the British. During the quarter century of Pakistani rule there was no significant change. After independence successive government introduced various reforms to make education accessible to the general masses, both geographically and socially. The emphasis then shifted from British to American with greater significance on technical and vocational training.
Formal education begins with five years of primary education, followed by another five years of secondary education. After secondary education, two more years of study are required to obtain a higher secondary education degree. An additional 2-4 years are required to obtain a college degree, which precedes a graduate degree at the university level. Both technical and non-technical degrees are offered by various education institutions in Bangladesh. Institutions in the late 1980s included programs to provide low cost vocational education to the rural populace. In 1997, there were 77,685 primary schools with the total student population of 18 million. The student/teacher ratio was 57students to every 1 teacher. Although enrollment has risen over the years the dropout rate has also too between 50-60 %. Agriculture dependency and rampant poverty are the two major culprits. Bangladesh had 13,419 in secondary schools in 1997, with over 6 million students, which are highly subsidized by government. Some schools are co-ed and other are exclusively for females only. In 1997, 3 million people were enrolled in 1,773 intermediate schools and 1,571 degree colleges and 85% were privately operated. Admission in these colleges is highly competitive; as a result several technical. Colleges were made to accommodate the growing number of enrollment (Education).
Unlike the US, Bangladesh generally only offers graduate studies at the Master’s and Ph.D. levels. One major problem in the education systems is the student / teacher ratio at all levels – this is due to lack of qualified teachers. Literacy is low in Bangladesh; although it has jumped from 25% in 1991 to 40% in 1997 it is still really low compared to the east and SE Asia. Substantial gaps between rural and urban areas and between male and female literacy rates-in 1999- the adult male age 15- and over was 52 % compared to only 29% of adult females: youth levels 15-245 males is 60% and 39% for females (Education).
What I have learned from this project is simple: Not everyone goes through life easily. The hardship that the people of Bangladesh have to face everyday is heartbreaking to me. Bangladeshi people care very much about their education and making sure that the children are receiving it. However the hardships such as droughts and floods, is never easy to deal with. I am a Bangladeshi and I feel proud of it. I hope that someday I will be able to do something to help Bangladesh develop more.