- There are around two lakh educational institutions in the country, which have 4.5 crore students
- Most institutions have no alternative sources of power supply
- About 19 lakh students have registered to participate in this year's SSC, equivalent exams
- Some 8,00,000 students are preparing for university admission tests
Sohrab Hossain, a Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examinee in Feni's Dagonbhuiyan upazila, should be busy making preparations for his exams scheduled for September. But with load shedding – sometimes even five times a day – he finds it hard to focus on his studies.
"We could not attend in-person classes due to the pandemic…I cannot understand on my own many things that are in the syllabus. Now, these frequent outages have appeared as a new problem," he said.
The periodic power outages, alongside sizzling heat, are also disrupting the learning environment of all educational institutions as most of them have no alternative means to ensure an uninterrupted power supply.
Students are thus having a tough time concentrating in class or at home as load shedding has returned amid scorching heat.
The government on 19 July started implementing area-based load shedding across the country to reduce energy subsidies.
A majority of schools in the capital, except Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, Motijheel Ideal School and College, and a few other institutions, have no alternative sources of power supply such as an Instant Power Supply (IPS) unit for when the main supply fails.
The authorities of Khilgaon Girls School and College in Dhaka, which has 3,000 students, said they must keep classes suspended at the time of load shedding. But the school also has no plans for making up for the lost lessons.
Ranjon Kumar Roy, the school's principal, told The Business Standard, "We did not have to worry about electricity in the past few years. Thus, no fail-safe measures have been taken."
The headteacher of a private school in the capital's Dhaka Udyan told TBS that he continued classes in his institutions during load shedding on Thursday. "However, we are planning to halt classes in future as many students have become sick due to heat and excessive sweating," he said.
Kamrun Nahar, principal of Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, told TBS, "We have an IPS facility. We can continue educational activities amid the load shedding."
Shahanara Begum, principal of Ideal School and College, also had a similar opinion about her institution.
AKM Aftab Hossain Pramanik, additional secretary (Admin and Finance) of the Secondary and Higher Education Division, told TBS, "We are observing the load shedding situation. We believe that the schools will not face severe problems. We will take a decision soon in this regard."
According to education ministry sources, nearly 19 lakh students across the country have registered to participate in this year's SSC and equivalent examinations.
The SSC and equivalent examinations, scheduled to start on 19 June, were postponed due to the severe floods in Sylhet and Sunamganj districts. The rescheduled exams will begin on 15 September.
The Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) exams will start in the last week of November. As many as 14 lakh students have filled in forms to take part in the exams.
Usually, SSC exams begin in the first week of February and HSC in April but the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the exams by at least four months.
Moreover, some 8,00,000 students are preparing to sit for admission tests all over the country.
Ramim Chowdhury, an admission seeker, told TBS, "Power outages are occurring as many as four times a day, not to mention the unwavering heat. Studying has just got more difficult for me."
According to the latest report of the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics, about 92% of secondary schools, 98% of colleges, and 93% of madrasas have electricity connections.
In addition, 97% of secondary schools and 93% of colleges have access to pure drinking water.
There are around two lakh educational institutions, from primary to higher education, with 4.5 crore students across the country.
Iqbal Bahar Chowdhury, president of the Bangladesh Kindergarten School and College Oikya Parishad, told TBS, "There are 60,000 kindergarten schools with about one crore students in the country but most of them do not have IPS or other power sources to tackle load shedding. Teachers have no other option but to halt classes during load shedding."
Dr Fardah Uddin Hasan Chowdhury, the registrar of the Medicine Department at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, told TBS that children could fall sick in classes during the load shedding.
"The schools must have adequate pure drinking water and saline to tackle emergencies. Schools can avoid the load shedding by shifting classes to another time," he added.
Professor Siddiqur Rahman, former director of the Institute of Education and Research at Dhaka University, said, "The education ministry should ask all educational institutions to buy at least one IPS. The ministry can allocate money or the schools can arrange the money internally."
"It will not be wise to run classes during the ongoing heat wave sweeping over the country. So, necessary measures must be taken immediately," he added.
Professor Akhtaruzzaman, the vice-chancellor of Dhaka University, told TBS, "It is a national crisis and we have to adjust to this. We also have to ensure relaxation for our students with the existing capacity."