With more than one year of the Covid-19 pandemic hindering people's regular lives, one of the most crippled areas has been the educational sector of Bangladesh.
Schools, colleges and universities have remained shut since last March and though all other sectors have been trying to move on somehow, educational institutes could not be restarted anyhow.
The reasons were very valid on account that these institutions are the gathering places for a huge number of students and can be a massive breeding ground for the virus. Every year, a hundred thousand students participate in public exams and these institutes then become a gathering place for not only students but also parents and teachers, as well as invigilators.
This has led to the cancellation of three board exams, giving students a new concept of "auto-pass". It is yet unknown when admission tests will be held.
Amid this situation came the declaration of UGC allowing public universities to hold annual examinations.
For the last one year, online classes have been going on in both public and private universities. The green signal from UGC for private universities to conduct the examinations online, which came soon after the lockdown was imposed last year, has evidently relaxed the chances of session jams and at least one batch of students will graduate this year.
Most private university students have started their master's or advanced their careers. On the other hand, public universities could not even conduct classes properly by showing various causes such as the economic condition of the students, inhabitants in remote places, no access to internet or technological devices, adverse situations at home, etc.
After a year of this ordeal, the authority has finally realised that students also need to prepare themselves for their careers and hence need a graduation degree.
However, the question of why this decision was not taken earlier when consecutive reports of frustration, depression and even increased rates of suicide among students, mainly from this ordeal, still stands. Even if these rates have reduced, does that mean these problems do not persist anymore?
Just after the withdrawal of strict lockdown this year, authorities have been trying to take initiatives for reopening the institutions and resuming classes. But the arrival of a new announcement just before reopening educational institutes has become a common scene - extending the halt and continuing online classes.
Dhaka university has taken some recurring steps to collect students' information to provide them smart devices and easy access to the internet so at least online classes can be continued.
However, the students have yet to receive the devices and internet connection.
Most universities have continued official operations following a certain protocol. In the beginning of this year, universities decided to reopen and finish the final exams based on preference to at least loosen the chances of a session jam and most universities have even completed readmission processes for the year.
But the second wave of Covid-19 proved to be more vicious and resulted in another lockdown, taking the initiatives to a standstill. Although it has been said that classes may be resumed from May 23, this was declined last week.
According to a statement given by UGC, Dhaka University first proposed conducting online exams and the faculty deans were given two week's time to decide the procedure. Students are still in confusion whether the procedure will be realised any time soon and even if it is realised, what will the procedure be?
Every year, thousands of students from the suburbs come to Dhaka and other big cities to enroll in universities. Network availability in most places outside the main cities is still questionable. In most households, the situation may not be appropriate for studying or sitting for exams.
Additionally, most students travelled back to their hometowns without preparation when the lockdown was suddenly imposed in March last year and could not come back.
At the same time, this long halt in the education system is hampering the lives of every student, restricting them from entering into jobs, establishing themselves and, in many cases, taking the responsibility of an entire family.
Depression and frustration among students are increasing and the anomaly between the private and public universities is making it worse. Almost 103 private universities, consisting almost four lakh students, are already on their way to graduating and many have stepped into jobs.
The 49 public universities, with over three lakh students, are still in the dark about how they are going to mend this damage and compete with this already existing mass in the job sectors.
In the end, the cycle of dilemma regarding how the exams can be held and if it will be a viable solution for the students who have to attend field tests, laboratories and other technical tests to complete the exams exists.
Then again, most private universities have been successful in conducting assessments and classes, and it is a distant possibility that all private university students are from highly privileged households living in big cities.
Hence, public universities now need to show a creative expression of their scholarly minds in handling this problem with a constructive and effective solution because further delay to this process might give students the idea that their studentship is over.
And then again, the question regarding how this generation of students doing classes and sitting for exams online, submitting mere assignments instead of proper assessments, attaining no real life experiences and graduating on a compromised syllabus will guide this country remains valid.
Jubaida Auhana Faruque is a final year student at the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at University of Dhaka and a Research Intern at BIPSS.