Universities seem to be going slow in resuming in-person classes even though almost all other levels of educational institutes have already restarted imparting in-person lessons since 12 September.
Some universities are yet to decide on starting classes. For example, National University, Open University and Islamic Arabic University – which have 36 lakh out of 44 lakh high education students – are yet to take any decision to resume in-person classes.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) had requested universities to send lists of eligible students and teachers for vaccination by 17 May, aiming to resume the in-person classes and avoid probable session jams.
The delay in resuming classes as well as digital discrimination experienced in online classes have already caused frustration and various mental problems among students.
UGC Member Professor Biswajit Chandra told The Business Standard it is unfortunate that the universities are delaying to provide the list of the students for vaccination. At the same time, the students and their guardians should be more aware in this regard.
Professor Mashiur Rahman, vice chancellor (VC) of National University (NU), told TBS they have not taken any initiative to resume in-person classes.
"We are trying to reopen the colleges under the National University by this month. We will decide in an academic council meeting soon," he said.
The UGC opened a website in September to facilitate the vaccination for about 23 lakh university students who do not have a National Identity Card (NID). They can register for vaccines using birth registration certificates.
NU VC said the response of the students is very poor as only 2 lakh students have registered their names through the web link. However, these students have not gotten any direction to get the vaccines.
So far, about 19 lakh students have registered for vaccines. Of them, over 5 lakh got the first dose and about 1.5 lakh received the 2nd dose. Many students have complained that they have not been communicated after putting their names on the website.
Sattar Hossain, a student of Government Titumir College, told TBS he completed registration using the web link on 25 September but has not got any response yet.
Another student named Sumaiya Akhter from Eden Mohila College said there are huge gaps between taking vaccination initiatives and implementing those by authorities concerned.
"I have no NID. I applied for vaccines through the web link but I am not yet vaccinated even after 15 days," she added.
Public universities concentrate on reducing session jam
Most of the public universities, including Dhaka University (DU) and Jahanginagar University, opened their halls for final-year undergraduate and graduate students, concentrating on reducing session jams. The universities will take the pending examinations first to promote the students to the next classes.
They will also take the initiative to recover the learning gaps that occurred during the pandemic by taking extra classes and uploading materials online so that the students can receive their essential materials.
According to a study by the Bangladesh Teachers' Network last year, around 40% of students of DU are unable to buy devices and internet packages required for online classes. The percentage might be higher for the students of all public universities.
Again, as per data released by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 51% of families in the country do not own a television.
Furthermore, the latest study by Brac found that around 56% of students are not able to connect online or access recorded classes.
In Dhaka University, an academic year lasts for 12 months but from now it will be of eight months to reduce session jam. The departments can take exams on Fridays and Saturdays. Each department is allowed to take up to 40% of classes online.
The teachers will take extra classes for the students who had missed the online classes during the pandemic. The results of a semester and final exam will have to be published within six and eight weeks respectively after the end of the examinations.
DU Pro Vice Chancellor Professor AKM Maksud Kamal told TBS that a high-profile monitoring team led by the vice chancellor will monitor overall activities and help achieve the goals.
Private Universities to start classes from fall semester fully
A couple of private universities, for example, International University of Business Agriculture and Technology (IUBAT) and Gono University, have already resumed in-person classes, but most will resume in-person classes from the fall semester starting in October, said sources.
Academic councils will decide whether they will resume in-person classes fully or partially. Primarily the universities will make arrangements to operate both in-person and online classes. Non-vaccinated students will be allowed to attend classes virtually until they receive vaccines.
The private universities will emphasise health safety and they will take all the measures to implement the health guideline in line with the World Health Organisation and the health ministry's direction.
There are more than 3.6 lakh undergraduate and graduate students in 108 private universities in Bangladesh. Of them, 59% of students have registered their names for vaccination, UGC source said.
More than 16,000 teachers and 13,000 employees are working at those institutions.
Sheikh Kabir Hossain, president of the Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh, hoped that all the students will receive vaccines in a short time and attend the in-person classes.