The ferocious second wave of the pandemic has further disrupted the higher education landscape across the world. And Bangladesh is no exception.
Here too, Covid-19 has exacerbated uncertainty for over a million-plus students preparing for admission tests to get into colleges and universities, with most of them deferred to curb the spread of the virus.
The uncertainty has left these admission seekers scrambling to figure out what else they might consider in case they fail to bag a seat in the university of their choice.
The most sought-after Dhaka University, for instance, has deferred the admission test for all its undergraduate courses for the third time this academic year, citing the worsening Covid-19 situation in the country.
The other leading academic institutions -- Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Chittagong University, Jahangirnagar University, Rajshahi University, and the three public technical universities (CUET-RUET-KUET) -- have all put on hold the admission tests.
Forget the admission tests, a number of the 49 public universities in Bangladesh has not been able to conduct internal examinations since the pandemic broke out, resulting in sessions jam.
In fact, in the year 2020, a total of 13,67,377 students successfully completed the Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC) or equivalent examinations, and by now they were supposed to complete six months of university education.
This uncertainty over university admissions and the consequent anxiety have taken a toll on the mental health of many students and made some of them more vulnerable to drug use, UNB has learnt.
Female students in the rural areas of Bangladesh are the worst hit, with many of their parents losing their life savings during the pandemic. Many such parents have been forced to marry off their daughters at an early age in the past one year -- dashing their dreams of a higher education.
“I had a dream, a dream to complete my graduation. But the academic sessions jam and the pandemic changed my life forever," Saifa Nasrin, one such sufferer, told UNB over the phone from rural Bangladesh.
Last month, Saifa's parents married her off to reduce the financial burden on the family. "My husband has made it clear to me that he's not in favour of my higher studies."
Of the 49 public universities, 30 are supposed to conduct admission tests for undergraduate programmes.
Some 20 of these universities -- barring the top five -- have decided to implement a cluster admission test system. Seven agriculture and three technical universities will also follow the same cluster system.
Bangladesh also has 107 private varsities and about 2,254 colleges affiliated to National University.
Moreover, these 20 public universities -- excluding Dhaka University, BUET, Rajshahi University, Jahangirnagar University and Chittagong University -- are said to have received a total of 3,81,406 applications for 2020-21 UG admission tests.