After a year-and-a-half closure, Dhaka University residential dormitories are being prepared to welcome vaccinated students back in phases from 5 October.
Only vaccinated final-year and post-graduation course students will be allowed to board their rooms on the condition of maintaining strict health regulations, according to the university administration roadmap.
Students have to show valid papers in support of their studentship to enter the dormitories.
DU syndicate, the institute's highest policy-making body, on 18 September decided to reopen halls for examinees. The university is yet to decide on resuming in-persons classes.
According to hall provosts, students will not be allowed to flock in large numbers at their respective dormitories.
Only regular students will be able to reside in the halls after getting at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
"We are almost prepared to reopen residential students. We renovated canteens, reading room, mosque, and washroom to welcome back boarders," Haji Muhammad Mohsin Hall Provost Dr Masudur Rahman told The Business Standard.
Those with expired studentship will have to leave the halls to allocate empty seats to valid students.
"Those who are staying illegally have to leave the hall. The vacant rooms will be distributed among regular students," He added.
Several residential halls, including Fazlul Huq Muslim Hall, Jagannath Hall, Salimullah Muslim Hall and Bijoy Ekattor Hall had handwashing basins installed at entrances and restoration and renovation works were also underway.
According to hall authorities, dining rooms, canteens, reading rooms and restrooms are being cleaned in all the dormitories.
Dhaka University Proctor Prof AKM Golam Rabbani said, "We are reopening dormitories in a risky environment amid the pandemic. No students will be allowed to stay at dorms after completing studies."
Rabbani expressed hope that student leaders would also cooperate with the hall authority to enforce health restrictions on campus.
Standard operating procedure for reopening dorms
Meanwhile, the university authority has decided to impose a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on students after reopening halls.
The SOP includes abiding by health guidelines, wearing masks, and maintaining social distance.
"The SOP is divided into three parts - housing, hygiene and medical care. No residential students cannot set up a floor bed under any circumstances. The surroundings of the room should be kept clean and tidy. A large room can accommodate a maximum of four students," Prof Abdul Bashir, the chairman of the provost standing committee, told The Business Standard.
Banners and festoons on Covid-19 will also be installed in the residential halls and academic buildings to raise awareness.
"Students must put on a mask while leaving rooms, they must wash their hands before entering their halls. Students must avoid spitting in random places and avoid crowding mosques and canteens," Prof Bashir said.
He further said various restrictions must be followed by students and faculties as the pandemic is yet to pass. "We must take precautions to continue our lives amid this situation," he added.
Prof Abdul Bashir noted that students must inform the hall administrations if they suffer from any chronic illness.
"A student will be placed in quarantine at the DU medical centre if he or she tests Covid-19 positive," he told The Business Standard.
Confusion over gono room removal
"Gono rooms" have long been a controversial issue for both faculties and students' organisations.
When asked about the decision to abolish the gono room system, Prof Bashir said they will be closed with immediate effect.
"We will not allow gono rooms to exist anymore. Students will be allotted seats in those rooms on basis of merit," he told The Business Standard.
However, Saddam Hossain, Dhaka University unit general secretary of the Bangladesh Chhatra League told The Business Standard the decision of shutting down gono room will not benefit students.
"University authorities are now saying that they will not allow gono room system. Bangladesh Chhatra League welcomes the decision but we are not sure how the authority will implement this decision where the university is facing severe accommodation problem," he said.
The Bangladesh Chhatra League leader also said university dormitories should have opened earlier.
"We proposed DU authority to reopen residential dormitories by late September or 1 October but they didn't cooperate with us," he told The Business Standard.
"We demand to ensure legal sit for every student including freshers. Gono room culture is proven harmful for studies but university authorities have to ensure alternative accommodation facilities first," Saddam added.
Meanwhile, Socialist Student Front DU Unit President Salman Siddique welcomed the decision of banning gono rooms.
"We have been long demanding to remove gono room culture as the system is used as a political tool against general students. Hall authorities should force illegal residents and ex-students to leave the dormitories to accommodate regular students," he told The Business Standard.
However, Salman also demanded new residential dormitories to overcome the accommodation crisis.
"It is university's responsibility to ensure proper accommodation for all of its students but the authority seems nothing but a paper tiger. Gono room culture has to stop but after ensuring proper accommodation facilities for all students," he added.
DU Vice-Chancellor Prof Akhtaruzzaman said, "We are moving forward with our reopening plan. Hall provosts are working according to the instructions we've given."
Following the completion of final-year and post-graduation course exams, students of junior batches will be allowed in dorms from November in the second phase.
Dhaka University has been shut since March 2020 after the country detected the first Covid-19 patient.
Its central library section was reopened on Sunday for vaccinated students.