Jannatul Ferdous Panna, a sixth grader at Monipur School and College, was seen happily playing in the playground after completion of two classes.
"We had to attend classes once a week for a long while. Even then, there were fears of contracting Covid-19. From now on we can attend classes every day without fear. But we still have to wear masks at classes and outside the schools," she said.
Panna was among the many primary and secondary level students for whom in-person classes fully resumed on Tuesday after 726 days following the pandemic-induced school closures.
Although schools at other levels shut in March 2020 have since reopened, the government decided to keep preschools closed, with classes being held online.
As a result, the experience of learning in a classroom for many students was cut short within a few months of admission. Other children who enrolled in pre-primary schools during the last two years could not attend in-person classes.
The Primary and Mass Education Ministry finally resumed the pre-primary classes on Tuesday, scheduling two classes per week.
The partial openings in secondary and higher secondary schools and universities started from 22 February, while for primary students it began from 2 March following a reduction in infections.
"I could not admit my daughter to pre-primary classes for the pandemic. I had been waiting as she is now five-years-old. On Tuesday, I sent my child to school for the first time. But a year has already passed," Aysha Begum, a guardian, said.
Mahmuda Akter, another guardian, told The Business Standard that his two sons were studying at Motijheel Ideal School and College. Her sons could neither study nor play with joy due to the closure of educational institutions.
"One of my sons is in Class-VI and the other in Class-III. Their in-person classes resumed on Tuesday. Now they can concentrate on their studies and extra-curricular activities regularly. I feel good today as I had been waiting for this day," she said.
Dr Shahan Ara Begum, principal of Motijheel Ideal School and College, told TBS that the school halls had come alive once again after the return of the students. The students also seemed to be very happy, almost as if they had been released after a long spell being caged.
"We will try to recover learning losses by taking some extra classes," she added.
Dr Manzoor Ahmed, professor emeritus at Brac University, told TBS, "The students have already faced huge learning losses. Most of them could not attend online classes," adding that the government should come up with a long-term plan.
He said government and non-government organisations had to work together in this regard. "Otherwise, the nation will suffer huge losses," he added.
Unesco data till 5 February, 2022 listed five other countries with the highest school closure rates – Kuwait for 62 weeks, Venezuela 61 weeks, Uganda and the Philippines 60 weeks, Myanmar 59 weeks, and Honduras for 58 weeks.
Neighbouring India kept its educational institutions fully closed for 25 weeks, while Pakistan for 37 weeks.
Among developed countries, the USA, Australia and Sweden never fully closed schools. Even Brazil, which has the highest death rate among South American countries, had only 38 weeks of full school closures.
According to a report published by Unesco and Unicef, education of around 37 million children in Bangladesh and about 800 million children in Asia, including South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia, has been disrupted due to school closures since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.
In Bangladesh, the Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) showed that two out of three pre-primary to upper secondary students in Bangladesh were not reached with remote education during the pandemic-induced school closures.