Bangladesh's school closure that started in March last year in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak is the longest in the world, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) database.
When 53% of countries decided to reopen schools completely during February 2021, Bangladesh – even after 61 weeks of full school closure – remains one of the only 14 countries which are yet to reopen academic institutions.
Full closure refers to the closure that affects most or all of the schoolchildren from pre-primary, primary, lower and upper secondary levels.
Schools in Bangladesh have remained closed since 17 March 2020 – which means 76 weeks till 30 August this year as per the calendar year. But according to Unesco, the country has witnessed 61 weeks of full school closure as the UN body evaluates the number of weeks to represent the total amount of time lost by students during the pandemic holding 9-11 months as a school year depending on the country.
The Unesco database reveals that Venezuela has had the same number of weeks of full school closure as that of Bangladesh, followed by Honduras (59 weeks), Kuwait (57 weeks), Panama (55 weeks) and Mexico (53 weeks).
With 46 weeks of full school closure, Sri Lanka has the second-longest school closure among South Asian countries, and the country is yet to reopen its schools.
Meanwhile, India has kept schools partially open for 44 weeks with only 25 weeks of full closure during the pandemic.
This indicates that Bangladeshi students are some of the very few to have faced greater losses in terms of education than those in other parts of the world.
Till now, about 40 million students have been affected, among whom 17.34 million belong to primary schools. These students have missed out on the opportunity to receive proper learning and interact with their peers, which has affected their education experience.
Dr Kazi Iqbal, senior research fellow of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), said Bangladesh needed to reopen schools as soon as possible maintaining proper health hygiene.
He also observed that partial reopening of schools fully would not be possible in Bangladesh for now as the current infrastructure of the country is not suitable. He stressed full reopening.
"But, first, we must make sure that all teachers get fully vaccinated. Then, students will have to be inoculated according to their level of seniority," he said.
Among the developed countries, the USA has kept schools partially open during the pandemic period without any weeks of school being fully closed, according to Unesco.
Brazil, having the highest death rate among South American countries, had only 38 weeks of full closure. Despite partially reopening educational institutions, the country has been successful in ensuring a downward trend of new cases since June this year.
The Bangladesh government, however, has kept extending school closures as the Covid-19 infection rate is yet to come under control.
As per the latest decision by the government, primary, secondary and higher secondary educational institutions in the country are expected to reopen from 12 September simultaneously nationwide.