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Students skip classes fearing for safety

  • Published at 06:11 pm August 10th, 2018
Unidentified youths join police in assaulting and chasing away the students demonstrating in demand of safe roads at Mirpur 14 in Dhaka on Thursday, August 2, 2018 Dhaka Tribune

School, college students said their parents were not letting them out of the house

Despite the nationwide student demonstration for road safety ending a few days ago, some students in Dhaka have not yet got back to their classrooms, fearing for their safety on the roads.

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, a number of school and college students said they were afraid of going out wearing uniforms - afraid they would be accosted by police.

“Even without uniform, we fear police may assault or arrest us if we are seen carrying our school bags,” said a second-year student of Dhaka Residential Model College.

In some cases, parents are not letting their children step out of their houses for fear of attack.

“They say the situation is calm now, but it's not,” said the guardian of an eighth-grader, requesting anonymity.

Classes resumed in schools and colleges on Tuesday after nine days of intense student protests in Dhaka and across Bangladesh demanding road safety. 

Also Read - Over 100 injured in Chhatra League-student clash in Jigatola

Outraged students took to the streets after two 12th-graders were killed by a speeding bus on the Airport Road in Kurmitola, Dhaka on July 29.

The students demonstrated demanding justice against those responsible for road accidents and strict implementation of traffic laws.

Following a week of protests that turned violent in Dhaka on August 4, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid met with the headmasters and principals of schools and colleges in the capital city on August 5 and directed them to convince their students, at any cost, to withdraw from the streets.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, too, requested the protesting students to return to classes later last week.

Also Read - Home minister: Patience has its limit

Allegations of unprovoked attacks

Several college students complained that their uniform-clad friends had been stopped and harassed by police on the road without any reason, even though the protests have been over for a while.

“That's why many students are not coming to the college even though the pre-test for HSC [Higher Secondary Certificate] examination is in progress in our college,” said a Dhaka Residential Model College student, requesting not to be named.

A student of Birshrestha Noor Mohammad Public College, also requesting anonymity, said one-third of the students in his college were not going to classes.

“I have not been to classes for a week,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.

The guardian of a Class 8 student of National Ideal School and College, requesting anonymity, said: “Police are still harassing students in uniform on the streets. Earlier this week, some young people with weapons attacked students of private universities with the help of police.”

Angry and frustrated, the guardian asked: “Whom do we ask for justice? Why are police helping hooligans to attack students?”

“The JSC exams [Junior Secondary Certificate exams – taken by students at the end of Class 8] are scheduled in a few months, but I don't feel safe to send my brother to school,” she said. “I request the government not to harass these children and ensure their safety on the streets.”

Also Read - Nahid asks teachers to take students back to classes

A second-year student of Viqarunnisa Noon College, who actively participated in the protests, said students from her college were still getting harassed by police.

“All we wanted was to bring discipline to our road transport sector,” she told the Dhaka Tribune, requesting anonymity. “We only wanted justice. But a certain group got involved to take political advantage of the protests. When we realized that, we left the streets.”

Rampura resident Golam Mostofa, father of a sixth-grader, said he was still anxious about the overall situation even though Dhaka has seemingly gone back to normal.

“But I am forced to let my son go to school as his exams are taking place. I hope the situation will improve soon,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.

The Dhaka Tribune approached several other students and their guardians, who refused to speak to the press fearing further harassment.

When contacted, Dhaka Residential Model College Vice-Principal Monjurul Haque refuted the student's claim that students were skipping classes out of fear for their safety.

“We have more than 5,000 students; among them only 20-30 students are not coming. Out of the 924 students in Class 12, who are sitting an examination at present, only seven students are absent because they are ill; they submitted applications for sick leave,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.

The Dhaka Tribune tried to contact the officials of several other schools and colleges, but none of them were available for a comment.

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