Open dorms on March 1
Calls for immediate reopening of residential halls got louder as students of various public universities took to the streets to press home their demand, while Jahangirnagar University students refused to leave their dorms.
A group of agitating students welcomed the government's decision to reopen universities, but demanded that the residential halls should be open from March 1 instead of May.
The students of Jahangirnagar University, who broke open the locks of their residential halls on Saturday, refused to leave the dorms. Instead, female students yesterday broke open a hall again, defying an order of the university.
Following JU, several hundred Dhaka University students yesterday broke open the locks of Dr Muhammad Shahidullah and Amar Ekushey halls and went in.
The DU students demanded that all residential halls be opened by the end of February so they can stay at the halls from March 1.
A growing number of students at different public universities across Bangladesh like Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Islamic University in Kushtia, Rajshahi University and Barishal University have been demonstrating for the last few days to reopen their residential halls, which have been closed since the government shut down all educational institutions in March 2020 due to Covid-19.
Yesterday, after breaking open the locks of the doors of two halls, DU students stayed there for an hour and then, around 3:00pm, joined a protest rally in front of Raju Memorial Sculpture under the banner "Open Hall for All-Year Students".
The agitating students then submitted a memorandum to the VC. They first issued a 72-hour ultimatum to press home their demands, but later withdrew it after a meeting with the VC and said they would wait for the decision of the university's academic council, which will be held today around 10:30am.
The VC held a meeting with a five-member delegation of the students. After the meeting, Tanvir Alam Chowdhury, a third-year student of the criminology department, said, "We have placed our demands to the vice-chancellor. There is a meeting of the academic council of the university tomorrow [Tuesday]. If the demand for opening the hall is not accepted in the meeting, we will announce a new programme."
DU VC Prof Dr Md Akhtaruzzaman said, "The academic council of the university will take a decision in coordination with the national decisions of the government in this regard."
Replying to a query on the students' move to enter the dorm after breaking its lock, he said "Our students are responsible. I firmly believe they will behave responsibly in this regard. In times of pandemic, it is not possible to take a unilateral decision on any issue."
'WE WILL NOT LEAVE DORM'
On Saturday, several hundred students of Jahangirnagar University broke open the locks to all 16 residential halls, a day after at least 35 students were injured in clashes with villagers just outside the campus.
The university administration locked down eight female dormitories and later gave an order to vacate the halls by yesterday, or else legal action would be taken against the students.
However, defying the order, the protesting JU students yesterday vowed to stay inside the dormitories. Residential students of Bangamata Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib Hall yesterday again broke the lock on the hall door and started staying in the hall.
In a press conference at 4:00pm yesterday, they placed their five-point demand, which include the immediate arrest of identified attackers instead of filing a case against unnamed accused, the formation of a probe body, and withdrawal of hall vacancy notice within 12 hours.
However, they welcomed the education minister's statement regarding reopening of halls and universities. But, they said they will stay inside the dormitories as the case of JU is exceptional because it's the lone fully residential university in the country.
Also, in the aftermath of Friday's clash with the villagers it is not suitable for them to go back, they said.
Professor Sohel Ahmed, provost of Shaheed Rafiq-Jabbar Hall, said the students were asked to leave the halls in accordance with the decision by government's high-level policymakers.
"We do not have any conflict with the students, we are only thinking of their wellbeing," he said. "We are asking them to leave the halls as that would be the right thing to do at the moment."
University Grants Commission (UGC) has already issued a notice saying the halls will reopen following vaccination of the students, he mentioned.
Meanwhile, RU students gave an ultimatum to the university authority to reopen dormitories by February 28.
On behalf of the students, Khairul Islam Dukhu of the economics department said, "We have been staying out of campus for a long time. Our economic situation has deteriorated following the pandemic. As a result, it is hard for us to maintain living costs at private dormitories outside the campus. We want to go back to our dormitories and to our classrooms.
"If the authorities don't reopen the dormitories by this month, we won't be silent anymore. We will break into the dorms by March by any means."