Reopening of Universities: Jab registration only key
Although the government had planned to resume in-person classes at universities and their affiliated colleges from mid-October after vaccinating all students by September, about 60 percent of the tertiary-level pupils have not even registered for vaccination yet.
Now the government has moved away from the stance and said any university can resume in-person classes if all its students complete the online registration by September 27.
The development came as the Covid-19 infection rate has come down significantly. Once registered, university students will get the shots on a priority basis, said officials concerned.
The decision was made at a virtual meeting attended by officials of the education ministry, the University Grants Commission (UGC), vice-chancellors of public universities and health officials yesterday.
Education Minister Dipu Moni presided over the meeting, two days after schools and colleges reopened across the country on Sunday following a Covid-induced closure of about 18 months. The meeting was held at a time when discussions are underway on whether universities can reopen ahead of the scheduled date -- October 15.
UGC Member Prof Muhammed Alamgir, who attended the meeting, said students without national identity (NID) cards would be able to register for the vaccination using their birth certificates.
One-hundred and seven private universities, 50 public universities and their affiliated colleges have 44.34 lakh students in total, according to the latest UGC annual report.
Only around 17.50 lakh students have so far registered for the vaccination. Of them, about 4.5 lakh students received the first dose and 90,000 got both doses, a top UGC official, who attended the meeting yesterday, told The Daily Star.
Some 1.31 lakh residential students of public universities have registered for the vaccine. Of them, 1.18 lakh took the first dose and 81,000 got both the shots.
About 90 to 95 percent of about 15,300 public university teachers have received both doses, said UGC officials.
Asked how all students would be vaccinated before October 15 given the current rate of registration, Prof Alamgir said the condition that all students need to be inoculated before that date was no longer in effect after the meeting.
"Now the universities can reopen after completing the registration of all their students before September 27 upon approval of their academic councils and syndicates," he said.
"We don't think vaccination of all students will be a challenge as health officials informed us that there are enough vaccines in their stock," he added.
However, there have been frequent hiccups in the country's regular mass inoculation campaigns mostly because of shortage of doses. About 4.14 crore people have registered and 2.03 crore of them are yet to get the first dose, according to data from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
At present, there are about 1.5 vaccine doses in government stock, the data shows.
At the meeting, several VCs said many of their students could not register for not having NID cards.
An UGC member estimated that about 15 to 20 percent of all university students do not have the identification document.
Prof Alamgir said health officials at the meeting assured them that if universities provided them with lists containing names of such students, the students be allowed to do the registration using their birth certificates.
Sources said it was decided that UGC would open a web link within two days. Students without NID cards will have to register there and then the UGC would forward the lists to the health authorities.
After that, those students will be able to complete the registration using the government's Surokkha app.
UGC acting secretary Ferdous Zaman said they would send a list of students to the health ministry soon through the education ministry.
At the meeting, there was also discussion on setting up vaccination booths at the medical centres of public universities to speed up the inoculation.
"After registration, students will be able to get vaccines at the university medical centres and the health directorate will give necessary technical support in this regard," Ferdous said.
COMPLETE REGISTRATION: DIPU MONI
After yesterday's meeting, Dipu Moni urged all university students to complete their registration by September 27.
"Students completing their registration will get the vaccine on a priority basis," she said.
While talking to reporters after another meeting yesterday, the education minister said the government could not fix any reopening date for universities since they are autonomous bodies.
"We hope that the academic councils and syndicates of the universities will make a final decision keeping in mind the state of student's vaccination and the infection rate," she said.
The government on August 26 decided that students of all public and private universities will be inoculated against Covid-19 by September and the universities could start in-person classes in phases from October 15.
But on September 5 a discussion on reopening the universities surfaced again. That day, Education Minister Dipu Moni announced in-person classes in schools and colleges would resume in phases on September 12 and universities could reopen ahead of the scheduled date upon approval from their academic councils and syndicates.
The universities were closed on March 17 last year to curb the spread of Covid-19.
About 1.5 lakh students of medical, dental colleges and other health institutions went back to the classroom on Monday after taking both doses of the Covid vaccine.