Education in dire crisis Schools, colleges not to open till June 30

13 June 2021

Kazi Zahidul Hasan :
The government announced on Saturday to extend the closure of educational institutions till June 30 when calls are growing from educationalists, guardians and students to reopen school and colleges to in person learning as soon as possible.
Schools, colleges and universities in Bangladesh suspended classes in March last year amid coronavirus pandemic.  
Earlier, the government had decided to reopen schools and colleges, in phases, from June 13. But the recent spike in Covid-19 infections forced it backtrack from the decision.
"Education sector in Bangladesh is now going through a serious crisis due to the prolonged closures of educational institutions amid Covid-19 pandemic," said noted educationist Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury, adding, "The government inked vaccine purchase deal with a single foreign company, but vaccine has not come yet. The government's mishandling and negligence over the pandemic and vaccine purchase has created the situation."
He said the government did not consider the pandemic situation duly, therefore, our health and education sectors witnessed an unprecedented shock.
"The closure of educational institutions has already created huge damage to education sector.  The government must set utmost priority to reopen them as soon as possible," Prof Serajul Islam Choudhury told The New Nation.
When asked, he said, "The looming danger is that we do not able to provide job to a generation due to the pandemic. They remain stuck at homes and get addicted with mobile phones and internet. The jobless youths now get depressed and frustrated. We have to face a daunting challenge to cure them."         
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (BANBEIS)-2019 report, there are a total of 171,779 educational institutes across the country with a little over 39.83 million students.
"I would like to see schools reopen sooner rather than later. But the current situation is not supportive for academic activities due to the growing Covid-19 infection rate," renowned educationist Rasheda K Chowdhury told The New Nation.
She added, the current Covid-19 positivity rate is 14.12 per cent while the total positivity rate stands at 13.39 per cent. "So, the situation is not conducive for reopening educational institutions."
"As per WHO guidelines, a country can run academic activities during pandemic if virus infection rate comes down to below 5 per cent. The coronavirus infection rate dropped to below 2 per cent in November-December (last year) creating an opportunity for reopening educational institutions. But we have failed to take the opportunity and helped linger the closures to 15 months in a row, causing huge harm to the country's education activities," said Rasheda K Chowdhury.
She said, "Prolong closures of schools, colleges can exacerbate socioeconomic disparities, accelerate drop-outs, child-labour and child-marriages and amplify educational inequalities. It may also aggravate domestic violence and mental health disorders among students."
Rasheda K Chowdhury, a former adviser to the caretaker government, however, suggested that educational institutions located in the areas with low Covid infection rate should and can reopen the in-person classes if they follow a set of strict health and hygiene guidelines.
She said the government should prioritize reopening of educational institutions in phased manner under a recovery plan considering the huge loss in learning induced by the coronavirus pandemic.

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