Soon after completing her MBA from Dhaka University last year, Fahmida Khan started looking for jobs. Her first choice was a government job for which the recruitment takes place through BCS exams.
So, when the Public Service Commission published the circular of the 41st Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) exams in November last year, she applied. She also applied for posts of senior officer and officer at some state-owned banks, and is waiting for the recruitment tests to start.
But the wait has turned out to be a lengthy one, as the recruitment process has been stalled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"A recruitment exam or a job is not just a matter for one person. It involves an entire family and the dreams of many. No one seems to understand the hardships faced by the youths after finishing their education," a frustrated Fahmida said.
Fahmida is one among thousands of government job seekers whose aspirations have been plunged into uncertainty in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The virus, first detected in the country on March 8, either slowed down or entirely stopped the recruitment process, forcing the government to freeze its job postings and recruitment exams. This has led to a rise in vacancies in government jobs and jobseekers.
The PSC could not fix the date of the 41st BCS exams while large-scale recruitment for bank jobs have also been put on hold due to the outbreak. As a result, nearly 11 lakh jobseekers are currently enduring hardship, pinning their hopes on the commencement of recruitment tests soon.
PSC officials, however, said even though small recruitment tests have started, they are not thinking of taking exams like BCS right now as it requires huge preparations, including preparing a large number of centres for the examinations.
As a result, there is no chance the 41st BCS exams would be held anytime soon, they said. Nearly half a million candidates applied for 2,135 posts.
Bankers' Selection Committee (BSC), which has been formed to appoint officials for state-owned banks and financial institutions, said to overcome the crisis, the recruitment exams of the state-owned banks will start this month.
BSC is also planning to take a recruitment test for around 5,000 vacancies within this year.
Talking to this newspaper, a number of job seekers said the circular for the appointment of 2,246 posts of officers at the state-owned Sonali Bank, Janata Bank, Krishi Bank and Bangladesh Development Limited were posted on September 7, 2017.
Although three banks' recruitment processes were completed, 633 posts of Janata Bank were pending due to lawsuits. This exam date was fixed on March 20, but that did not happen because of Covid-19, they said.
Besides, 188 posts of assistant director at Bangladesh Bank in the last year, 771 posts of senior officer at seven state-owned banks, 2,046 posts of officer (general) at nine banks, and 1,511 posts of officer (cash) at these banks have also been advertised early this year, but no examination date has yet been given.
Besides, several viva-voce exams of past examinations have also not taken place on time.
The BSC said the oral exams will start from this month. Among the deferred exams, Janata Bank is preparing to take exams for 633 posts in the first week of October. At least 48,000 candidates will take part in it.
Besides, the recruitment tests for the post of senior officer, officer, and officer (cash) will also be held this year, for which around six lakh candidates are supposed to appear.
Of the six lakh candidates, more than 2.5 lakh are for the position of senior officer, 2 lakh for the post of officer, and 1.5 lakh for the post of officer (cash).
The candidates urged the authorities concerned to increase the age limit for entry into government jobs as the inactivity due to the pandemic has taken out valuable time from their lives.
The government decided to allow those who turned 30 on March 25 or later to apply for government jobs.
The public administration ministry is going to issue a gazette notification in a day or two as many who have crossed 30 years of age did not get the opportunity to apply for various government jobs as a circular had not been issued since March.
Some candidates however said it would not be of much help as in the past five months no job advertisements were posted, and urged the government to further increase the age limit.
They also requested the government to take measures in order to check question leaks of bank recruitment exams and ensure recruitment of candidates from the regular panel or waiting list in a more coordinated way.
Asked about the overall situation, Arif Hossain Khan, general manager of Bangladesh Bank and member secretary of the Bankers' Selection Committee, said, "All the exams have been stuck due to Covid-19. But we are going to start taking the tests one by one.
"The tests will start on September 18 and will continue one after another. At first, there will be exams with fewer candidates and then tests for more candidates," he told The Daily Star.
He said they want to take all the recruitment tests for nearly 5,000 posts this year.
"Therefore, the candidates will get jobs and the manpower crisis of the banks will also be resolved," Arif Hossain noted.
Besides, they have also asked for the number of new vacancies in all state-owned banks in 2019.
"Once we get it, new circulars will be issued."
'A HUGE TASK'
Jobs recruited through the BCS exams are the first choice of youths. Since various non-cadre posts are also filled up from the waiting list of a BCS exam, interest for the civil service is increasing day by day.
For the 41st BCS examinations, a record number of 4.75 lakh applied after the PSC issued the circular of this BCS on November 26 last year.
PSC Chairman Mohammad Sadiq said hundreds of educational institutions in eight divisions will be required to hold the BCS exams and accommodate this volume of candidates.
"This is a huge task," he told The Daily Star.
Since educational institutions are closed, it is not possible to take the BCS exams unless those are opened and adequate preparation is taken, he said.
The PSC Chairman also said a few exams for non-cadre posts have been started. Besides, the viva-voce for different exams is also taking place on a small scale.
The writer is a freelance journalist.