The government has decided to reopen educational institutions, particularly primary, secondary and higher secondary ones, in Bangladesh on June 13 if the Covid-19 situation does not deteriorate.
“We’ve decided to reopen all the educational institutions -- primary, secondary and higher secondary ones -- on June 13. We expect the situation to be much more favourable by the time,” said Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni at a virtual press conference on Wednesday.
About reopening universities, the Education Minister said the decision will be taken in consultation with the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the university authorities.
The minister, however, said reopening of public universities depends on vaccination among their resident students, teachers and staff.
“The reopening of universities may slightly depend on vaccination,” she said, adding that the government will soon start vaccination among resident students, teachers, officers and employees of universities on a priority basis.
Initially, the institutions will remain open for six days a week for the class-V students as well as SSC and HSC candidates of 2021 and 2022, while for one day for the students of other classes. The number of classroom lectures will increase gradually for the students of other classes, she said.
The government has already taken preparations so that the SSC and HSC examinees for 2021 can sit for their examinations attending the classes for 60 days and 84 days respectively. And their syllabuses were shortened accordingly. The examinations will begin at least two weeks after the classes, the minister added.
The periods for in-person classes will be 150 days and 180 days for SSC and HSC candidates of 2022. The syllabuses for the examinees of 2022 have also been shortened.
Dipu Moni urged all to follow the health guidelines and thus help the government create a favourable environment for reopening the educational institutions.
“On one hand, we ask for reopening educational institutions and increase the (Covid-19) infection rate on the other hand by not following the health guidelines. These two things can't go together,” she said.
The minister said the online and television-based teaching and assignment-based academic activity are going on amid the ongoing closure of educational institutions.
She said the Covid-19 infection rate has risen slightly due to the recent mass exodus during the Eid holidays.
“The infection rate has risen suddenly in some districts. Keeping such issues in mind, we’re extending the closure of our educational institutions until June 12. We hope the situation will improve by the time, and then we can reopen the institutions,” she said.
The minister, however, said the government will reopen the educational institutions on the basis of adequate data and favourable opinions.
She said the government takes its decision following discussions with the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19. “We’ll take the decision (on reopening the educational institutions) based on discussions with them this time, too,” she added.
According to expert views, if the Covid-19 infection rate remains within 5 percent, it will create a favourable situation to reopen educational institutions, Dipu Moni added.
In reply to a question about the JSC examinations, the minister said if the situation remains conducive, the government will hold examinations, or else, those would be assignment-based ones.
She said the government has collected data of the dropped-out students and now those are being analysed. “So, we’ll soon get a complete report on it (dropout),” she added.
Replying to another question, Dr Dipu Moni said there is a slim chance to give auto-pass to the SSC and HSC candidates of 2021 unlike the HSC candidates of 2020.
She said the HSC candidates of 2020 had joined the classes for full two years, sat for pre-tests and taken all-out preparations for the examinations, but the exams were postponed just a few days ago.
This time, she said, the SSC and HSC candidates could not attend their normal classes throughout last year. “So, the scope to give them an auto-pass is very thin.”
Speaking at the press conference, State Minister for Primary and Mass Education Md Zakir Hossain said the primary schools will also be reopened on June 13 next. “It won’t be a bad decision if we reopen the schools making sure that health rules are followed,” he said.
Initially, the schools will remain open for six days a week for the class-V students, while one day for class-I to class-IV students, said the state minister.
The government shut the educational institutions on March 17, 2020 after the country reported its first Covid-19 cases on March 8. Then the closure was extended several times, most recently until May 29, 2021.
Covid situation in Bangladesh
Bangladesh witnessed a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases and fatalities as it recorded 40 more deaths and 1,675 cases in 24 hours until Tuesday morning.
The Covid positivity rate rose to 10.08 percent again during the period after remaining below 10 percent since May 15. The country had been seeing below 40 deaths since May 13.
Health authorities registered 1,675 new cases after testing 16,624 samples during the 24-hour period.
Besides, the mortality rate remained static at 1.57 percent, said a handout of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).