Two contrasting pictures marred the second day of school reopening on Monday – students wore masks in the classroom while their guardians crowded outside, completely ignoring the virus safety guidelines, to keep watch over their children and take them back home afterwards.
Health experts, sounding a note of caution, said the crowding may act like superspreader incidents with the parents likely to infect the kids with coronavirus eventually. The education authorities said the education ministry, having undertaken programmes to make guardians aware of Covid safety measures, believe it is now for parents to realise the gravity of the situation.
This correspondent visited five schools in Dhaka Monday and found the same picture of parents gathering outside the schools or at school premises. Many of them were not wearing face masks.
"I talked to some of the parents to convince them to follow the health guidelines, but to no avail," Kamrul Hasan, a guardian, told The Business Standard at Monipur School and College (boys section).
"If this continues, we will be the cause of student infections," he noted. Hasan said he has already requested the teachers to stop guardians from gathering at the schools or around them.
Forhad Hossain, the principal of the educational institution, said the school authorities are campaigning to encourage guardians to follow virus safety measures.
"We will issue a notice on health directives, and send it to the guardians soon," he added.
On Sunday, educational institutions returned to life after remaining shuttered for around one and a half years. The government reopened the educational institutions following the recommendations of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 (NTAC).
The NTAC recommended that schools make hand washing and mask wearing mandatory, and that gatherings be avoided.
Prof Dr Syed Golam Faruk, director general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, told TBS that the ministry took up numerous programmes to make guardians aware of virus safety measures before the reopening of educational institutions.
"I believe guardians will realise the matter and stick to the health guidelines from Tuesday," he added.
The picture of health guideline compliance was different inside the schools with teachers, students and officials strictly maintaining virus safety rules. In the classrooms, everyone wore a mask.
Some students took off their masks when they came out of the classroom, but the teachers told them to mask up again.
More than one crore students from about two lakh educational institutions have been taking part in classroom studies across the country since 12 September.
According to the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, 74% of students joined classes on the first day of reopening and 75% on the second day.
Shahan Ara Begum, principal of Motijheel Ideal School and College, told TBS that all the teachers and staff are strict about maintaining the health guidelines.
She said teachers at the schools brief the students on health directives for at least five minutes before beginning the classes.
Public health experts have recommended stern action against guardians crowding outside the classrooms.
"The parents will be taking the kids to the school and bringing them back home. The students will not remain protected if the guardians take a lax approach to virus safety. The government must ensure mask wearing, and should introduce punishments if needed," said Dr Nazrul Islam, a noted virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
On Monday, the medical colleges resumed classes with around cent percent student turnout. Professor Dr Titu Miah, principal of Dhaka Medical College (DMC), said the DMC authorities were satisfied with the health guideline compliance at medical classes.