Many English medium schools are yet to hop on board since all educational institutions across the country – except the universities – resumed in-person classes on 12 September. Schools that are taking one in-person class per week are seeing very poor students' presence.
Several guardians told The Business Standard that they are still reluctant to send their children to school over fears of Covid-19 infections. They will wait until their children are vaccinated, and then send them back to school.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in parliament that the government has plans to gradually bring students aged 12 and above under Covid inoculation, and vaccinate 80% of the country's population.
According to the Bangladesh English Medium Schools Association, only 30%-40% of students are currently attending in-person classes. In comparison, more than 70% students are now attending their classes at government, MPO and private sector institutions.
Responding to a query, the association's Secretary General GM Nizam Uddin said, "A good number of schools have started in-person academic activities, and some of the schools are taking preparations to resume classes.
"It is true that students' presence is very poor at schools. Most guardians are now observing the situation, but many have started to send the children back to their schools. These institutions are determined to ensure the safety of their students inside the school premises."
Nizam assured the guardians that the schools will not show any negligence in following safety measures.
Engineer Md Shafiul Azam, a guardian whose child studies at Delhi Public School in Dhaka, said, "My daughter now collects her class lectures from the school's web portal. I will send her back to school if I witness good environment and safety measures after a month.
Most guardians have similar thoughts
Bangladesh English School Parents' Association Convener Masud Khan also said, "The guardians are concerned about their children, and this is the reason behind the absence of a good number of students at in-person classes.
"We actually want to be sure that the schools are following adequate health safety measures to curb Covid-19 infections in those institutions. Though it is true that the children are getting tired of staying at home, we will have no tension if the government vaccinates the school-goers."
Bangladesh has more than 200 English medium schools with about 4 lakh learners studying in them.
Sabuj Ahmed, principal of New School Dhaka, said his institution will resume in-person classes next week.
"We are making all-out preparations to reopen the school through following health safety guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the health ministry," he said.
Sabuj, however, said his school has been facing a financial crisis since all educational institutions were closed last year because of the pandemic. "We have to arrange more funds to resume the classes," he said.
On a positive note, some of the English medium schools are witnessing a satisfactory attendance level reaching up to 70% to 80%. South Point School is one of them, where on average 80% students have been present at the last few in-person classes.
South Point School Banani Branch Principal Motiur Rahman said, "We are offering extracurricular activities to our students while following health safety guidelines. This is why the students have become more interested in attending their classes.
"We did our best to remain connected to the students amid the pandemic. We also assured the guardians that we are following health safety guidelines to the letter. In fact, during the pre-pandemic period, our school had an overall attendance rate of more than 95%."
Online classes continue too
After the Covid-19 pandemic struck Bangladesh last year, English medium schools began taking all their classes online. At present, these students are participating in online classes five days a week, while one day has been designated for in-person classes.
British Council sources said it expects that the English medium schools will follow the Bangladesh government's Covid-19 protocols, as well as prevention and control mechanisms outlined by the WHO. The health and safety of all stakeholders remain the British Council's top priority.
The safeguarding protocols – including mandatory face coverings during exams, physical distancing of candidates, cleaning and sanitisation of premises – will be implemented in all exam locations in Dhaka, Chattogram, Sylhet, Narayanganj and Khulna.
Moreover, the British Council had also sent a press release in September last year outlining the health protocols.