The government is planning to vaccinate all students and university teachers before reopening higher educational institutions in September, according to sources at the University Grants Commission (UGC).
New and potential undergraduate students will also be vaccinated before the start of their university admission exams in October this year.
Recently, the UGC and National University asked private universities and government colleges (undergraduate) to gather student information for the immunisation programme.
"Vaccination is a must in order to restart in-person classes at universities. As vaccines are available in the country, we aim to reopen universities in September. We can do that if university authorities respond soon," UGC Member Professor Biswajit Chanda told The Business Standard (TBS).
Professor Syed Golam Faruk, director general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, told TBS that the authorities were working on how to give shots to students and make inoculation convenient for undergraduate college students.
There are 40 lakh undergraduate and graduate-level students in over 150 public and private universities in the country. Another 15 lakh new students are awaiting admission.
Meanwhile, the vaccination of students, who customarily live in the residential dormitory halls and hostels of public universities, and students going abroad for higher education, has already begun this month.
Public universities will reopen hostels once residential students get vaccinated. First, final year graduate and undergraduate students will be allowed into hostels. After that, gradually, other non residential students will be allowed in the campus.
Jubayer Ahmed, a residential student of Dhaka University, said he was very happy to receive the vaccine on 11 July and was waiting to go to his hostel.
Professor Farid Uddin Ahmed, vice-chancellor of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet, told this correspondent that most of their residential students were already vaccinated. The university is waiting for government instructions on the reopening of hostels.
He believes the government will be able to provide vaccines to all university and undergraduate college students, residential and non residential, within one month.
UNIQUE ID TO BRING ALL STUDENTS UNDER VACCINATION
Many students do not have a national identity card and they will not be able to register for vaccination. In such cases, the education ministry is collecting their names to provide them a unique ID to be sent to the health ministry that will make it possible for those students to be vaccinated.
On 15 July, the UGC also specifically asked private universities to provide unique identification numbers for their students who do not have national identity cards, so as to bring them within the purview of the national mass vaccination programme.
It was also decided that from now on all activities, including admissions at private universities, will be done based on unique IDs.
"This unique student identification number will be applicable and effective, not only for the vaccination programme but for overall discipline and management at private universities as well. This unique ID will also serve as the registration number for all current and future students at the universities," said Professor Biswajit Chand.
Professor Dr M Mashiur Rahman, vice-chancellor of National University, told TBS they received details of about five lakh students who have their national identity cards. Government and non-government colleges have been asked to send their students' names and details.
Professor Dr Atiqul Islam, vice-chancellor of North South University, told TBS they were also collecting information as per the UGC's directives and will send their students' list as early as possible.
HEALTH EXPERTS FOR REOPENING INSTITUTIONS
About 2.14% of total 19,274 deaths from Covid-19 so far were of people aged between 20 and 30.
Professor Dr Nazrul Islam, a renowned virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told TBS that the infection and death rates were very low among people aged between 20 and 30, most of whom were university students.
The government can reopen institutions after providing vaccines to all students. but students must follow health guidelines that include wearing masks and washing hands, he said.
On 16 March last year, the government decided to shut down all educational institutions and coaching centres for the sake of students' safety from Covid infection. The closure was later extended several times.