Continued closure of educational institutions
Going back on its plan to reopen schools and colleges partially, the government has once again extended the closure of schools and colleges to June 30. Earlier the education minister had announced that all educational institutions would open from June 12. Understandably, the Covid situation with a new surge in infections has led to such a decision. However, it is rather incongruous to see life running at a normal level in every sector despite the lockdowns, except in the education sector. It is also a fact that the country has been hit by the second wave, but that has affected the border areas more than the hinterlands.
Classes have been suspended since March last year, and the adverse consequences of such a long hiatus from classroom has had its effect on the students in lesser or greater degree which cannot be lost upon our planners. Pushing back plans constantly to reopen educational institutions is frustrating for the students, teachers and parents. Thus, such a situation demands a well deliberated action plan for all the educational institutions all over the country.
The idea of wide-scale remote or distant or online learning is impracticable in Bangladesh. And this too has been limited to the affluent and mainly to the upscale schools and colleges in the Capital. How many students can afford the facilities to participate in online classes? What about the students of the outlying districts whose access to IT facilities is very limited if at all? And what about the primary schools? It does not need an expert to suggest that the so-called auto promotion is self-defeating.
The idea of not opening the universities till every student has been vaccinated defies logic. We ask if the government needs to wait for the infection rate to come down to 5 percent all over the country. Why do all the education institutions have to open at the same time all over the country? Why can't those areas with less than 5 percent positivity rate at present, and there are a few, open without further ado? Why can't safety measures be enforced in all schools and colleges? To start with, can't the schools and colleges run in shifts, and cant students attend school for three instead of five or six days? There are rafts of alternatives, which those who are capable of thinking and offering practicable alternatives can offer. All we can assume from the way the education sector has been handled during the pandemic is that very little thought has been given to devise ways and means to tide over the situation in a manner that would ensure safety of the students as well as disrupt their education as little as possible. We believe that the government should not rely entirely on bureaucrats but fall back on experts for their suggestions, some of which have already appeared in the print media. The education minister should seek their ideas.