Schools should not be reopened at the moment, given the prevailing coronavirus circumstances. But well planned preparation must be made for when eventually schools do reopen. This needs local preparation. And investment is required to ensure hygiene and other measures to make up for the lost time in studies. The government should have a stimulus package for the education sector too and ensure that there is transparency in its implementation.
Speakers made these observations at the virtual roundtable, ‘Children returning to school safely during COVID-19: Obstacles and the way ahead’. Held on Thursday, the roundtable was jointly organised by Prothom Alo and Save the Children Bangladesh.
Government functionaries involved in the education sector, health experts, mental health experts, education experts and students participated in the roundtable.
If we are alive, there will be studies, we can be established in life. So let the educational institutions in Bangladesh remain closed for now. These can be opened when the risks are lessened
Head of the government’s national technical advisory committee and president of Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council (BMDC) Mohammad Shahidullah said, schools need to be reopened, but not right now. Life comes first. If we are alive, there will be studies, we can be established in life. So let the educational institutions in Bangladesh remain closed for now. These can be opened when the risks are lessened.
Former caretaker government adviser for primary and mass education, Rasheda K Choudhury, said that preparations need to be taken now to ensure a safe environment before the schools reopen once things are back to normal. She said, there should be celebrations the day the children can return to school. The confidence of the students, teachers and the guardians must be restored. Preparations must be made keeping the student of poor families in mind too. Many children who have fallen back in their studies will be reluctant to return to school, she pointed out, saying that steps must be taken to bring them back.
All this would require a stimulus package, she said, adding that the package would have to be used in a transparent and accountable manner.
Director general of the primary education directorate and additional secretary of the government, Md Fasiullah, said that even during the coronavirus closure, classes were being conducted on television and over radio in order to keep up the continuation of studies. He said schools would not be opened when there was still risk. Schools would only be opened when there were no risks.
The rate of coronavirus transmission in the country had been just over 12 per cent. That means the transmission is going downw, but a decision needs to be taken whether the education institutions will open before the rate of coronavirus transmission drops below 5 per cent.
Director general of the secondary and higher education directorate, Syed Golam Faruk, laid stress of adjusting to the reality of the situation created by the coronavirus outbreak. He said, coronavirus has created a sort of opportunity too, which must be put to use. For example, he said, there were online classes. And the moment the situation returned to normal, the stalled HSC exam would be held with a 15-day notice.
Former vice chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and member of the national technical advisory committee for coronavirus, Nazrul Islam, said the 40 million students of the country were the country’s most valuable assets. In two days the rate of coronavirus transmission in the country had been just over 12 per cent. That means the transmission is going down, but a decision needs to be taken whether the education institutions will open before the rate of coronavirus transmission drops below 5 per cent.
He said investment must also be made for masks and other hygiene facilities once the schools reopen.
Mental health expert and member of the national technical advisory committee for coronavirus, Mohit Kamal, said the schools must be opened only upon the advice of the national advisory committee. Schools cannot be opened in the red zones.
Save the Children Bangladesh’s deputy director (risk reduction and climate change), Syed Matiul Ahsan, highlighted the harm caused by school closure due to coronavirus, saying that the schools may reopen in the coming days, but it should be ensured that the schools are safe.
HSC examinee of Holy Cross College, Labonya Proggya, said that when things come under control, the HSC exam should be given priority.
Also speaking at the roundtable were Unicef Bangladesh’s education specialist Iqbal Hossain, associate professor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University’s public health department, Romen Raihan, Save the Children Bangladesh’s education advisor Mohammad Kamal Hossain and others.
Speaking at the start of the roundtable, Prothom Alo associate editor Abdul Quayum highlighted the various topics of the discussion. The roundtable was moderated by Prothom Alo assistant editor Firoz Choudhury.