All the educational institutions in Bangladesh were shut down in March 2020 when Covid-19 hit the country, a move hailed by students and guardians alike.
Six months into the pandemic, all the educational institutions sans Qawmi madrasahs remain closed, but the parents and guardians of those same students are now divided over the extended closure.
After identifying the first cases of Covid-19 on March 8, the government announced the closure of all the educational institutions across the country on March 16. On August 27, the closure was extended up to October 3.
Zobaida Akhter, a housewife and resident of South Banasree, says her two sons studying in primary and secondary grades. She thinks the extension of this unscheduled holidays will only hamper the academic activities of students.
“Of course, when schools were shut down initially, I was happy to know my children are a bit safer. They’re still continuing to study from home through online and television classes but it’s not a permanent solution,” she told UNB.
Shahin Ahmed who has a daughter reading in the fifth grade said although studying at home without the direct guidance of teachers is not enough but it is safer than reopening.
“Those of us who’re adults going out with a lot of preparations but children hardly follow the rules of hygiene. So, by no means the schools should be reopened now,” he said.
The guardians of those students who were to appear at the Higher School Certificate Examination (HSC) this year are facing even greater mental pressure.
One of them, Ajmal Hussain whose daughter is an examinee from Dhaka Board told UNB that the sooner the exam takes place the better. “The mental stress she’s suffering has now started affecting the whole family.”
But, many others think there should be no exams until the virus threat is neutralised in one way or the other.
“There’s no guarantee of my son’s life once he catches the virus while attending the HSC exams. The exams should remain postponed until the situation improves,” said Shahida Akter, mother of another HSC examinee, from Barishal.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education has assured multiple times that a notice would be issued at least 10 days before the HSC exams begin.
While talking to UNB, public relations officer of the Education Ministry Mohammad Abul Khair said a decision whether the educational institutes should reopen will come by the end of September.
“Since the educational institutions are closed till October 3, we’ll monitor the situation before that, and a decision may be taken by the end of this month,” he told UNB.
He said no specific date has been set yet for the decision. “It’s still undecided exactly when the decision may be given.”
Cabinet Secretary Khandaker Anwarul Islam on Monday said the Education Ministry was thinking separately about reopening schools and colleges.
He said the matter to take the decision on reopening has been left to the ministries concerned.
Anwarul Islam said the decision would be taken by the relevant ministries, not any central body.
On September 8, the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education released a guideline for running schools maintaining proper health protocols amid the risk of coronavirus infections.
The guideline has been prepared as part of overall planning about public health and education. It will be applied once a concrete decision is made by the higher authorities over school reopening.
It has been formulated as per directives from the Prime Minister’s Office, Cabinet Division, and Health Services Division, in addition to WHO, UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank and CDC (USA).