School Opening: Can We Think of Region-wise Opening?

The government put a declaration of school opening on 30 March (2021). Photo source: The Daily Star
The government put a declaration of school opening on 30 March (2021). Photo source: The Daily Star
Masum Billah
Written by Masum Billah

The government put a declaration of school opening on 30 March (2021) and universities on 24 May following the lower infection rate (less than 3 per cent) of Corona and vaccine availability. Of recent, the infection rate has seen a sharp rise that led to the Directorate of Health to hold a meeting which signalled not to reopen the educational institutions as a preferable idea. The Ministry of Education also ventilates a similar concept. The Prime Minister on the occasion of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s 101st birth anniversary and children’s Day said, “Children cannot go to school due to Corona that is a matter of sorrow. My darlings! I will tell you to continue your studies being at home and engage yourselves in games and sports and practice cultural activities. You are the future of the country who will steer the nation forward. I want you to study and form your lives beautifully. We will reopen schools only when the effect of Corona will decrease.”

This almost hints that the previous declaration of the state to open schools may see a change. But when that declaration comes is a matter of time as the nation is celebrating its golden jubilee of independence and 101st birth anniversary of Bangabandhu, the father of the nation till 26 March which is being attended by several heads of states, foreign dignitaries. So, till 26 March, we may not hear the next or changed declaration. However, according to the previous declaration, educational institutions have prepared to reopen.

When Corona infection rate came down to 3 per cent, a declaration came from the government for school opening on 30 March 2021. However, the affected rate has increased and it has been detected the highest in the last three months that has put us into a confusing situation whether schools are going to reopen at the end of March. 30 March has already been declared as a Shab-e-Barat holiday. The ministry has closely observed the whole situation.

Before opening the institutions, teachers are supposed to be vaccinated but the newspaper reports say almost half of the teachers have so far been out of vaccination that is another weak point. National Consultative Committee to be consulted as the education minister has said. If the Corona positivity case climbs, it will be reasonable to push back the opening date of schools as is opined by the head of the medicine department, DMC. He said, “That the children have the resistance power more than the aged is true but they don’t show any symptoms sometimes even though they are affected.

So, the aged members of the family may be affected by them. The infection rate when it goes beyond 5 per cent, is prohibited for school opening. But now it is three times greater than this rate. The DG of DSHE (Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education) has said, “All the children have been brought under health rules. One decision has been made to open schools seeing the less severity of Corona infection, as it has started increasing now it depends on the coming atmosphere and situation.”  

DSHE has started collecting information regarding the opinion of the opening of schools from the field level through its nine regional offices namely Dhaka, Khulna, Barishal, Sylhet, Chattagram, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Cumilla and Mymensingh. Two kinds of opinions have come out. However, most opinions stand in favour of school opening and they say no problem will happen if schools are opened now. The situation in the urban areas looks different as most children use rickshaw and public bus to go to and come from schools that keep the potential scope to get affected and spread Corona among the family members.

If the rate of infection rises, whether the guardians send their children to school remains a big question. Guardian leaders invite all concerned to take the decision to open schools keeping in mind the risk and security factor of the students, teachers, staff and guardians. One former director of the Health Directorate says, “We need to have ample preparation before school opening so that the risk of new cases does not occur. Schools can be opened once all the preventive measures have been taken appropriately.”

The current Director General of Health Directorate says, “We will have to wait for more to see what is waiting for us. If the current rate of climbing continues, the situation may turn dangerous.” By this time, one inter-ministerial meeting took place where the ministers of several ministries raised the issue of reopening schools but the Minister for Education did not agree to the proposal, as the newspaper reports say.  The representatives of the ministry of home and police expressed their concern over the rise of the crime rate that they attribute to the educational institutions’ closure. They also said that it was difficult for them to control the crimes of so climbing rate. Child marriage also increased because of the closure of schools. However, it was declared that 30 March educational institutions would be opened but now it has become almost uncertain.  

As a guardian of the whole nation what the Prime Minister has said for the students attaches much importance and relevance. Still, I entreat the honourbale Prime Minister to look into the matter that Corona infection does not prevail equally in all parts of Bangladesh. It is not so severe in haor, hilly and rural areas as in the cities or towns.  The DESHE reports also say this truth. Under these circumstances, can the reopening of schools be considered region-wise? We know children have been eagerly waiting to come back to their known and adorable environment to mix with their classmates and exchange greetings and pleasantries with them. Already 377 days’ closure has caused serious mental, the physical, academic and psychological strain on their body and mind. If the infection rate goes much higher, definitely closure must continue. When it does not appear with the same pace of severity in all the regions of the country, can we think of reopening educational institutions area/region wise?

About the author

Masum Billah

Masum Billah

Masum Billah works as an Education Expert in the BRAC Education Program, BRAC, and President of the English Teachers' Association of Bangladesh (ETAB), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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