Amid demonstrations by the students of seven colleges affiliated with Dhaka University (DU) protesting the postponement of their ongoing examinations, the Education Ministry on Wednesday announced that their examinations will continue maintaining the Covid-19 health guidelines.
Education Minister Dipu Moni announced the decision after a virtual meeting with principals of the seven colleges in the afternoon.
Earlier in the morning, the students from the seven colleges blocked the Nilkhet intersection in the capital demanding continuation of their examinations.
The blockade created heavy traffic congestion in the area causing immense suffering to commuters, including office-goers.
Earlier on Tuesday night, the students also took to the streets after the Dhaka University authorities at a meeting with the principals of the seven colleges decided to postpone all the exams till May 1, citing the Covid-19 pandemic.
The agitating students blocked the road around 9am as declared earlier.
Hundreds of students joined the protests and were chanting various slogans demanding that their examinations be allowed to continue, and asked the authorities concerned to take immediate steps in this regard.
They had threatened to continue their protests until the authorities change their decision.
Earlier, the government decided to reopen the residential halls of all universities on May 17 and resume classes on May 24. The Ministry of Education issued a directive to keep all the examinations postponed till then.
Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni said, "Before reopening, the teachers, students and employees will be vaccinated."
There are 1.30 lakh residential students, 15,000 teachers and 25,000 employees in different public universities of the country.
Bangladesh Students’ Union’s Jahangirnagar University unit chief Mikha Piregu was permanently expelled from the university on Tuesday.
According to an office order signed by JU registrar-in-charge Rahima Kanij, Piregu was expelled for forging the sign of his department’s head and seal in an application.
On November 18 last year, he was expelled after a special meeting of the syndicate following recommendation by an investigation committee.
Piregu, belonging to the 44th batch of the university, is a student of the marketing department. He is also the joint general secretary of Bangladesh Students’ Union central committee.
When asked, he said that in 2017 he submitted an application to the exam controller’s office with the sign and seal of the department’s chairman which was approved after a meeting.
“Somehow the Vice-Chancellor’s Office didn’t approve it and I was asked to resubmit it. As winter vacation was going on, I submitted a photocopy of the previous application,” he said.
Incumbent Chairman of the Marketing department, Md Kashedul Ohab Tuhin, said he was not the department head at that time.
The then department chairman was on leave during the date mentioned in the application, he said.
The students of Islamic University staged demonstrations for the 3rd consecutive days on Tuesday and gave a 5-day ultimatum to the authorities for reopening of the campus and the residential halls of the university.
The students gave the ultimatum at a press conference held at Chaal Chattar area on the campus around 11:30am.
After the press conference, the students brought out a protest rally from Daina Chattar area which ended in front of the administration building after parading main roads of the campus.
Also read: IU students demand reopening of halls
They also observed a sit-in programme there to press home their demands.
Students will face session jams as the university has been kept closed for a long time due to the pandemic, the agitating students said.
The students demanded the university authorities to continue its bachelors' and Master’s final examinations.
Earlier, on Monday, Education Minister Dipu Moni said classes in all the public and private universities will resume on May 24.
The residential halls of the universities will be reopened on May 17, said the Minister while addressing a virtual press briefing.
However, the online classes will continue but no examination will be held before the reopening of the universities, the minister added.
Closure of educational institutions
The government shut all the schools and educational institutions on March 17 last year after the country confirmed its first Covid-19 cases on March 8.
The closure was extended several times, most recently until February 28 this year, to protect the students from the virus infections.
Online classes are going on at different educational institutions.
The decision of reopening public universities came amid demonstrations by students of different public universities, including Jahangirnagar University and Rajshhai University, demanding the reopening of dormitories.
Besides, the Covid-19 situation has been improving in Bangladesh steadily in recent weeks. Meanwhile, a countrywide vaccination drive was launched on Feb 7.
More than 60 percent respondents of an online survey opined that the schools of the country should be reopened in a short time.
The Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh conducted the survey titled “Finally schools will reopen: How much we are prepared” from February 17 to 22, 2021.
The total number of respondents is 1960 people- 576(29.4%) guardians, 370 teachers (18.9 %) and 1014 others(51.7%).
The survey report was unveiled virtually on Tuesday. Convenor of the organization and Distinguished Fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya moderated the virtual event.
Among the guardians, 54.7 percent have said that they don’t feel safe to send their children to schools now, according to the online survey.
Besides, 86.8 percent guardians said they are aware about the government’s Covid-19 health guidelines and 50.7 percent of them opined that their children won’t be able to maintain the health guidelines at schools.
Among the teachers, 68 percent opined that their institutions have the capacity to ensure health guidelines.
Addressing the event, Chairman of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board Dhaka Professor Nehal Ahmed said they won’t reopen schools at a time due to the coronavirus situation.
“We will decide to reopen schools after getting permission from the national committee. Even we won’t reopen schools at a time. Who will take responsibility if any student gets infected by the virus? So we have to remain alert and maintain all health related directives,” he also said.
Nehal Ahmed added they will take suggestions from all concerned and scrutinize these before reopening of schools.
“The government issued a guideline on February 4 to take preparations and maintain safety for school reopening. However, most of the schools are prepared to reopen now,” he also added.
Shakhwat Hossain, head teacher of a government primary school in Narsingdi said guardians are pressuring them to reopen schools.
“As Qawmi Madrasa is open now many students have got admitted there. We can’t say that they will return to our schools again,” he also said.
Students of different public universities, including Dhaka, Rajshahi, Jahangirnagar, Chattogram, Kushtia’s Islamic University (IU) and Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST), continuing their protests with the demand of reopening dorms, which had been kept shut citing pandemic.
On Monday, a section of Dhaka University (DU) students broke into the Shahidullah Hall.
Around 100 students broke the locks and entered the DU hall around 12pm. The authorities said they are looking into the matter. "We are in a meeting over the issue and looking into the matter," DU Vice Chancellor Aktaruzzaman said.
Seeking anonymity, a protesting student said they have staged the demonstration to give authorities a message that students can get into their hall whenever they want.
However, Hall Provost Prof Syed Humayun Akhter, said: “Students only came to the hall to collect their personal belongings from their rooms, not to start living here. University authorities will take decision on hall opening.”
Notably, in the face of student protests across the country, the government has decided to reopen the residential halls on 17 May and classes will be held at the classrooms from 24 May.
Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni in a virtual briefing on Monday afternoon talked about various issues of higher education amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Before reopening, the teachers, students and employees will be vaccinated," the minister added.
There are 1.30 lakh residential students, 15,000 teachers and 25,000 employees in different public universities.
Students Movement for reopening halls immediately
The demand boiled over on Saturday when students of Jahangirnagar University broke into at least six halls in protest of the closure. They demanded reopening of the residential halls as soon as possible.
On Sunday, the students issued a 24-hour ultimatum for reopening the halls.
The protest was sparked by an attack on the students on Friday by residents of a village adjacent to the campus. Thousands of students were residing at rented hostels near Gerua Bazar.
A notice issued on Sunday night signed by JU's acting registrar read, "The university administration is instructing them to leave the halls by 10:00 am on February 22 on their own initiative."
Otherwise, the university administration will be compelled to take legal action against them, the university authorities warned.
But the students of JU, who are staying at the dormitories defying directives, declined to leave the halls by 10:00am today.
Protesters said they are staying there due to safety issues and will not leave at the threat of legal steps by the authority.
The students also urged the university authorities to ensure the safety of all who reside near Gerua Bazar after the official reopening of halls.
Students at Rajshahi University also protested and issued a 24-hour ultimatum to reopen all dormitories.
In a protest in front of the RU vice chancellor’s residence, they threatened a tougher movement if the halls were not reopened.
RU Proctor Prof Lutfor Rahman said they cannot reopen the campus and halls without a government order.
Rajshahi University (RU) students have issued a warning that they would break down the locks to enter the halls on 1 March if those are not reopened by 28 February.
Students of Kushtia’s Islamic University (IU), too, demonstrated on the campus demanding the reopening of residential halls.
Also read: IU students demand reopening of halls
Rejecting assurance from the university’s proctorial body, the students threatened to intensify their protest movement unless the halls were reopened.
IU VC Prof Shaikh Abdus Salam also said reopening the halls was not possible without directives from the government and the UGC.
Students of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) in Sylhet locked the university VC’s residence and stopped traffic movement near the campus, demanding the reopening of residential halls by Tuesday.
Following demonstrations by students on December 23, the academic council of Dhaka University on January 31 urged the authorities to reopen dormitories. The government has yet to take a decision on the matter.
The universities suspended academic activities and vacated halls in March last year amid the outbreak of dreaded Covid-19 in Bangladesh. School and colleges also remained closed from same month. Classes and examinations were taken online during the pandemic.
Students fear that the continuing closure will lead to them to fall further behind in academic activities, as online classes have either failed to engage or been inaccessible for many students.
Several students from outside Dhaka have also been struggling to find adequate accommodations in the city amid the closure of residential halls. UNB has learned that a large portion of public university students are now living in rented houses near their universities. This is more expensive as well as less safe, especially for female students.