Although a large number of people in Barisal division are poor, it has the lowest illiteracy rate while the rates for Sylhet division are quite opposite.
Barisal has the highest poverty rate of 38.3%, and the lowest 25.1% was recorded in Sylhet, according to Bangladesh Poverty Maps 2010. On the other hand, Literacy Assessment Survey (Las) 2011 revealed that highest literacy rate (61.3%) was recorded in Barisal and the lowest 45.4% in Sylhet.
Urban literacy rates are higher than the rural ones in the two divisions. Literacy rate in rural Barisal is 57.8% and 39.9% in rural Sylhet, the survey shows.
The highest rural-urban discrepancy in functional literacy rates was recorded at 13.3% in Sylhet and the lowest at 2.8% in Barisal.
The Las 2011 also revealed that Barisal has the highest functional literacy rates at both advanced and initial levels and the least discrepancy in functional literacy rates in terms of gender.
Urban functional literacy rates are almost similar in all the divisions except Barisal, where it was recorded at 74.9%, the highest compared with the other divisions. The lowest urban and rural functional literacy rates were found in Sylhet at 62% and 39.9% respectively.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Talukder Md Yunus, a lawmaker from Barisal 2, said: “Historically, people in Barisal are always education enthusiasts and aware of illiteracy. This is why they always send their children to schools.”
Asked the division’s poverty rates, he said the region’s people are poor due mainly to a lack of industrialisation and employment opportunities.
Asked about Sylhet’s increased illiteracy rates, Imran Ahmad, a lawmaker from Sylhet 4, said there had been one or two teachers at each school in Sylhet since the colonial era. The numbers of schools and teachers began to rise particularly after 1996.
Sylhet division has the lowest poverty rate because many people in the region are living abroad, earning themselves good amounts of money, he said, adding: “Historically, people in this division are from well-off backgrounds.”