Ministry’s whim: Why this confusion about opening schools amid heatwave

Three types of instructions were found yesterday, Monday, regarding the opening of educational institutions, which created confusion among the public, including even the relevant people. Especially the teachers, students and parents in excessive tension.

As soon as the Eid holidays ended, severe heatwave started sweeping over parts of the country. That’s why the vacation in educational institutions was extended by seven more days. However, the ministry reopened secondary schools, colleges, madrasahs and technical education institutes Sunday amid the severe heatwave.

The ministry of primary and mass education also followed them. When they took this decision, the country was going through a record-breaking heatwave within the last 76 years.

Since quite a few students fell sick on the first day of the educational institutions being reopened, all educational institutions run under the education ministry in five districts including Dhaka were announced closed on Monday. The primary schools in those districts were open that day though.

On the same day a High Court bench, taking the news reports published in the media into consideration, directed the relevant authorities to shut all primary, secondary, higher secondary, college, madrasah and technical education institutes until next Thursday.

In the meantime, however, the concerning authorities can take 'A level' and 'O level' exams if they want. And the educational institutions that have air-conditioning (AC) systems can remain open if they wish.

In that case, the ruling of the High Court is reflected in the primary education ministry’s announcement to keep all the educational institutions under their jurisdiction closed till Thursday.

But the education ministry has taken a strange decision. They have said that the educational institutions run under them in 27 districts would remain closed on 30 April. 

Those include all the districts under Khulna and Rajshahi divisions along with Dhaka, Tangail, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Gazipur and Manikganj districts from Dhaka division, Kurigram and Dinajpur districts under Rangpur division as well as Patuakhali district from Barishal division.

What was the basis of such a decision? The three-day ‘heat alert’ the meteorological department has issued anew from Monday, applies to the whole country. Then there can be no rationale behind the educational institutions outside of these 27 districts remaining open at this moment.

Even if we ignore rationality, when the High Court has ordered to keep the educational institutions (except for universities) closed, can the education ministry disregard that?

The education minister has talked about not keeping educational institutions closed throughout the country due to heatwave in any specific area. But, how could he become sure that the heatwave is not sweeping over outside of these 27 districts?

When the meteorologists are saying there’s no possibility of rainfall before 2 May, the policymakers of the education ministry should have followed the order of keeping educational institutions closed till 2 May.

Already, the schools will remain closed on 1 May for May Day. In that case, keeping the educational institutions outside of the 27 districts open on 30 April is nothing but a decision taken on whim.

If the educational institutions remain closed for a day, that damage can be repaired by taking classes on holidays. But, if a teacher or a student is affected due to the educational institutes remaining open amid heatwave, there will be no way to fix that.

We believe there’s no scope for obstinacy, where the safety of millions of students is involved.

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