Education ministry finalizing guidelines to ensure health and safety of students, hygiene measures in school
The government is mulling the restart of physical attendance at schools on a limited scale from February, prioritizing 10th and 12th graders to prepare them for public examinations.
The Ministry of Education is working to finalize a draft of the detailed reopening plan by the end of January. after around 10 months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to ministry officials, the government is working sincerely to reopen educational institutions as the daily infection rate is currently below 5% and vaccines will be available very soon.
"We are working on probable reopening procedures and hopefully it will be finalized by the government soon. The education minister will announce the procedure through a press conference," said Md Mahbub Hossain, secretary to the Secondary and Higher Education Division of the ministry.
"We will also get expert opinions in this regard," he told Dhaka Tribune on Wednesday.
Earlier, the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 suggested the reopening of schools considering the trend of the coronavirus infection rate.
At present, the daily test-positivity rate for Covid-19 in Bangladesh has been on a downward trend and it dipped to 3.96% in the 24 hours till Thursday morning.
In March last year, the government announced a nationwide lockdown and closed all educational institutions indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Although activities at both government and private offices were gradually restored, educational institutions have not been reopened yet.
On January 15, the Ministry of Education extended the ongoing shutdown of educational institutions till January 30.
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Many guardians told Dhaka Tribune they were anxious about the extension of the pandemic-induced closure of educational institutions and further interruption to the education of their children.
One guardian, Mahmuda Akhter Smritee, said: "My daughter is in the 10th-grade and was very serious about her studies, but she has fallen behind now as she struggles with distance learning.
"I think schools should reopen as all the activities in the country have basically resumed," she added.
On Wednesday, Awami League lawmaker Motahar Hossain told the parliament that students in villages were unable to get much benefit from virtual classes.
He urged the government to reopen educational institutions as soon as possible.
In a recent report, Unicef Representative in Bangladesh Tomoo Hozumi said: "At the height of the pandemic, 192 countries in the world shuttered schools. By 15 September, 73 per cent of the countries had reopened schools either fully or partially. It is important to initiate the process of operational planning towards a target date set for safe school reopening."
Although the government is yet to announce when in February educational institutions will reopen, officials concerned are taking preparations to reopen soon.
According to initial discussions, attendance at schools may be staggered to facilitate social distancing, and not all students need to go to school everyday. For example, sixth graders may go to school on Sundays and Mondays, while seventh graders go on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
However, classes for 10th and 12th graders are likely to be allowed on all working days of the week.
Dhaka Tribune could not reach Education Minister Dipu Moni for comment.
On Tuesday, she said on a live television talk show significant planning is required before restarting physical class activities. Many developed countries suffered after reopening schools, with the infection rate going up despite precautions.
Uniform method to be followed
India recently reopened educational institutions oa a limited scale, only for 10th and 12th graders in parts of states that had low infection rates. Many Bangladeshi experts have also suggested the reopening of schools in districts of the country where there was less infection.
However, officials said the government will reopen schools at the same time across the country in a uniform manner.
There are no plans to reopen schools in individual areas, according to them.