• Thursday, Feb 02, 2023
  • Last Update : 09:54 am

Covid-19: Schools, colleges remain shut for nearly a year as Qawmi madrasas operate normally

  • Published at 03:47 pm February 3rd, 2021
Recently the students of the Talimul Quran Al-Islamia Madrasa were seen reciting the Quran while sitting very close to each other without masks, defying the Covid-19 health safety directives, in Banasree, Dhaka Mehedi Hasan

Qawmi madrasas have remained operational – taking classes, holding exams with residential facilities – since last August, following a petition submitted to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

All the educational institutions have been kept shut – for almost a year – in a bid to stop the further spread of Covid-19. The government is still struggling to finalize a “favourable date” for resumption with vaccination efforts underway. 

On the other hand, the country’s Qawmi madrasas have remained operational – taking classes, holding exams with residential facilities – since last August, following a petition submitted to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.  

However, the madrasa authorities were given six conditions, which were to be strictly followed, focusing on the health safety guidelines issued by WHO and domestic experts for protecting students and teachers from the deadly virus.

Since then, the Qawmi madrasas have stayed open with no major incidents or reports relating to Covid-19.

However, some were seen violating the health guidelines and social distancing instructions which are crucial in the fight against coronavirus.

Only Bangladesh is yet to reopen schools in South Asia

Bangladesh, as of February 3, is the only country in South Asia that has its schools, colleges, and other mainstream educational institutes fully closed due to the Covid-19 crisis.

As a result of this, millions of students have been away from academic activities, with a few having the opportunity to participate in online education while those attending primary level education have been suffering the most in accessing education. 

Meanwhile, Pakistan, the Maldives and Bhutan have reopened their schools fully while India, Nepal and Sri Lanka have resumed operations on a limited scale. 

Health safety guidelines still a far cry

According to the health guidelines issued for the madrasas, students were asked to wear masks, hand gloves and safety hats. 

But Dhaka Tribune has found that not all are complying with the government directives. 

On Saturday, a visit to some of the madrasas in Dhaka’s Banasree and Rampura areas revealed that teachers and students there were seen living in a pre-pandemic manner. 

Several students of Al Furkanaiya Madrasa, located in Banasree, did not maintain “a three-feet distance” while sitting together and reciting the Quran inside a classroom.

When asked, madrassa officials said that as the students always stayed inside their residential facilities – which they claimed was like being in quarantine – there was no risk of Covid-19 infection.

They also claimed that students did not need to move outside as they had no long vacations now.

But a number of madrasa students of the two aforementioned areas were observed to be frequently going outside to attend prayers in mosques, buy groceries, stationery and other necessary items.

Responding to a question, Rakibul Hasan, principal of Al Furkanaiya Madrasa, said: “Masks are not used while students are being taught inside the madrasa. 

“Social distancing has also been relaxed as everyone always stays within the madrasa grounds. Our students are mostly under the age of 18 so that there is no risk of infection.

“In fact, since resumption, none of our teachers of students have tested positive for Covid-19,” he added.

Abul Kalam Azad, principal of another Dhaka madrasa named Talimul Quran Al Islamia Madrasa, said that the institution had  70 students. 

“These students are there in compliance with hygiene rules since the time they came to the residence. 

“Besides, there is very little contact with parents and outsiders in the madrasa. So, there is a tiny chance of contamination,” he added.

He said: “People die by the will of Allah and so coronavirus is not a big deal at all.” 

Contacted, KM Ruhul Amin, director general of the Madrasa Education Board, said: “We usually don’t follow the Qawmi madrasas as they are operated under their own management. 

“Thus, we don’t know the internal situation of Qawmi madrasas following the resumption amid pandemic.” 

Meanwhile, Maulana Mahfuzul Haque, secretary-general of the Bangladesh Qawmi Madrasa Education Board (Befaq) and principal of Mohammadpur Jamia Rahmania Arabia Madrasa, said: "So far we have had no information that anyone has been infected or has died with Covid-19 symptoms here. 

Jamiya Islamia Darul Ulum Madrasa is one of the largest Qawmi madrasas in Dhaka. More than 8,000 students study in this madrasa.

Abdur Rauf is one of them. He told Dhaka Tribune that about 200 students lived and studied on each floor. 

“Although the virus was unable to spread and infect others due to the ban on travelling outside, the closure of indoor and outdoor games from the beginning of the pandemic helped prevent it.” 

Echoing the same, another student of the madrasa, Abdul Awal, said there was one teacher in each room of the facility.

“If any of the students feel sick, or found suffering from fever and cold, the teacher sends them back home after providing primary treatment.

“When the student recovers, only then he comes back. Sometimes he is kept separate from all of us inside the madrasa for safety reasons,” he added.

Zahirul Islam and Mahfuzur Rahman, students of Jamia Shariah Madrasa, another madrasa in Dhaka, said they used to offer prayers separately during the lockdown at their madrasa. 

They also said that they did not come in contact with those who came to the mosque from outside.

The six-storey madrasa – with 600 students and 35 teachers – has more than 50 to 60 students sharing a single room.

According to a 2017 report by the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics, around 2 million students study in about 14,000 Qawmi madrasas spread across the country.

However, Befaqul Madarisil Arabia Bangladesh, one of the boards for Qawmi madrasas, says around 20,000 madrasas are operational currently under the body.

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