Closures until September likely

Virus puts education in jeopardy

Educational activities from pre-primary to tertiary level in the country have been stuck since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the closure, caused by the virus, looks set to delay educational activities for a longer period with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina hinting that educational institutions might remain closed till September.

“We are not going to open schools, colleges, and other educational institutions right now, they will remain closed till September if the Covid-19 situation remains unchanged,” the premier said while addressing a videoconference with representatives and officials of the districts under Rajshahi division on Monday.

“We will open educational institutions only after the coronavirus situation is under control,” she added. This unprecedented delay is set to cause uncertainty for over 4 crore students in the country, and the whole academic calendar in chaos. In this situation, experts and ministries concerned are yet to find any effective method to resolve the crisis that led to a halt of academic activities at all educational institutions.

Secondary and Higher education secretary, Md Mahbub Hossain told Bangladesh Post, “Not only Bangladesh, the whole world has not faced a situation like now. So, we are planning on how and in what way we can continue academic activities. Before introducing a method, we need planning and preparation.”

He also said, “We already have some plans. But it all depends on the coronavirus situation. If educational institutions remain closed till August, we have to think one way. If the closure extends to September, we have to think of another. So, we cannot say what is going to happen next.”

To minimize the loss, although State-run Sangsad Television is broadcasting recorded classes, there are allegations that this method is not being fully effective. Director General of Secondary and Higher Education Syed Golam Faruk, however, said, “There are some problems with taking classes on television. The authorities have decided to increase the number of classes fixing the existing problems within it.”

Besides, colleges have been asked to start online classes, he added. Professor of Institute of Education and Research (IER) of Dhaka University, Dr Mohammad Ali Zinnah told Bangladesh Post, “There is no alternative to formal education in our country. Although the government is trying to continue the academic activities at the primary and secondary level through Sangshad television, it has little impact on overall education.”

“Most of the students living in villages or remote areas do not get the benefit from online education or distance learning. Most of them do not have personal computers or television or even internet connection by which they will learn. The distance learning is only helpful for those who have been benefited by using a developed system,” he added.

Dr Zinnah also said, “We have to give more importance to life than education. We have nothing to do now.” On March 16, the government announced the closure of all educational institutions and coaching centres till March 31 and asked all students to stay at home to control the spread of the pandemic.

Then, the Education Ministry further extended the closure till April 9, then April 25 and lastly May 5. To continue the learning of Secondary level students during the vacation period, Sangshad Television has been broadcasting class lessons for Class VI to Class X between 9:00am and 9:000pm every day since March 28. On the other hand, Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) also took separate initiative to broadcast lessons at primary level.