The government has once again shut all educational institutions across the country for two weeks – just 132 days into their partial reopening – in the wake of rising Covid-19 infections.
Starting from Saturday, the shutdown will remain effective until 6 February, according to a notice issued by the Cabinet Division on Friday.
Education institutions across the country reopened on a limited scale on 12 September last year after 542 days of closure for the same reason.
The government took the initiative for the second time to safeguard students and teachers from contracting Covid, with the infection rate surging every day.
Education Minister Dipu Moni told the media that this time children have got infected by Covid-19. There was no such record in previous times. That is why the government was compelled to close the educational institutions.
"We will take classes online and assignment evaluation will also continue," she said.
"We took the decision after consulting the prime minister and the health minister. We will observe the situation and will reopen the institutions when the situation improves," she said.
Public and private universities can also run their academic activities online, and university dorms will remain open maintaining strict health guidelines.
Bangladesh logged more than 11,000 positive cases and 12 deaths in the last 24 hours till 8am Friday. Also, the positivity rate climbed to 28.49%, up from 26.37% in the previous day, according to the health directorate.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque yesterday said, "The infection rate is increasing. It is alarming that many students are getting infected. Schools, colleges and universities will be closed for the next two weeks. The next steps will be decided based on the situation after two weeks."
Educationists, health experts welcome the decision
Professor Siddiqur Rahman, former director at Institute of Education Research at Dhaka University, told The Business Standard that the government had no other way but to close the educational institutions right now.
"The government should make a long-term plan to recover the learning losses as a good number of students will also remain out of the online study owing to a lack of digital devices and costly internet packages," he said.
Professor Dr Nazrul Islam, noted virologist and member National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, told TBS that they have found cases of children contracting the virus. So, in-person-classes could be another source of massive infections.
"Nothing will bring good results if the children, guardians and other people do not follow the health guidelines strictly," he said.
Private school owners upset
Owners of private schools have expressed their dissatisfaction with the decision to close the educational institutions as they might face a severe financial crisis again.
Ikbal Bahar Chowdhury, president of the Bangladesh Kindergarten School and College Oikya Parishad, told TBS that the schools missed almost two academic years. Many owners reopened the schools after taking loans. Now they will fall into another problem because of the latest shutdown.
The country has around 55,000 private educational institutions, including nursery schools. There are about 80 lakh students and 8 lakh teachers in the schools.
DU to continue online classes, exams
Dhaka University authorities decided to keep its residential halls open and will return to online classes from Sunday as they postponed in-person classes and exams until 6 February due to the pandemic. But the offices of the university will remain open from 9am to 1pm.
Professor ASM Maksud Kamal, pro-vice-chancellor (academic) at the university, said they have decided to keep the dorms open, considering students' sufferings.
"We have asked students, teachers and employees of the university to follow health guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation and health ministry properly. We have also requested them not to take part in any meeting, assembly or other public gatherings inside the university campus and halls," he added.
NU postpones all exams
The National University authorities in an emergency meeting decided to suspend all the examinations till 5 February.
The university also issued a press release in this regard yesterday.
As per the government directive, all the exams of the National University will remain suspended till further notice. The new schedule of the exams will be informed later when the Covid-19 situation normalises, according to the press release.
Education minister wants a solution to SUST issue
Education Minister Dipu Moni spoke to the agitating students of Sylhet's Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) to try to end the impasse.
She talked to the students over the phone at around 3:10pm yesterday.
During the conversation, she said she would look into the issue. She wants a peaceful solution to the issue as soon as possible and is willing to talk to students directly if they want.
The protesting students have also expressed interest in meeting the minister. However, in the afternoon, the students said they would continue to protest even if the campus is declared closed.
Earlier, a group of Bangladesh Awami League leaders led by its central committee's organising secretary Shafiul Alam Chowdhury Nadel spoke separately with students and Vice-Chancellor Prof Farid Uddin regarding the issue.