Public and private universities in the country may introduce online classes and examinations after Eid-ul-Azha vacations as Covid-19 infections have been rising rapidly.
The Covid positivity rate in Bangladesh surged to over 15% in the past couple of days and death tolls are also on a rising trend.
Under these circumstances, the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) on Thursday decided to stop in-person classes for post-graduate courses.
Professor Mizanur Rahman, director of the Directorate of Students' Welfare at Buet, told The Business Standard that the decision was made on Thursday given the current Covid situation in the country.
Professor Dil Afroza Begum, acting chairman of the University Grants Commission, said the commission will send letters to public and private universities about introducing online classes again following instructions from the education ministry.
"The Covid infection rate among youths is low so we are awaiting ministry directives," she said.
Education ministry sources said the ministry is observing the infection rate and if the infection rate increases after Eid vacations the ministry will ask universities to resume online classes.
Public and private universities are prepared to resume online classes as they have the experience, but none of them have shown much initiative to address the plight of poor and rural students.
In 2020 and 2021, most students from rural and remote areas could not attend online classes due to poor or no internet connections, and the expense of mobile data connections.
According to a survey of public universities in 2021, conducted by the University Grants Commission, some 87% of students have smartphones but most have no internet connection or cannot afford to buy mobile data.
Professor AKM Maksud Kamal, pro-vice-chancellor (Academic) of Dhaka University, told TBS they are ready to resume online classes with teachers now more skilled with experience, compared to pre-Covid times. Most students also have digital devices now.
"We will arrange everything for online classes and even provide smartphones to students. No one will be unable to attend online classes for lack of digital devices or costly data," he said.
Professor Atiqul Islam, vice-chancellor of North South University, told TBS it is now easy for them to conduct online classes and examinations. "Our teachers and students can start online classes at any time and obviously we will follow government instructions."
"We provided a 20% waiver of tuition fee to all students during the Covid period, especially between 2020 and 2021. There is a full scholarship for students whose parents have died," he added.
Noted virologist Professor Nazrul Islam, member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, told TBS they will advise the government if they observe an abnormal rise in infections.
"The government must ensure wearing masks at educational institutions that must be closed if the infection rate remains unchanged."
The government closed all educational institutions in March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 infection among students. Later, it allowed public universities to introduce online classes from 30 March 2020.
The education ministry on 30 April 2020 decided to allow private universities to take online classes and examinations amid the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.