Most Bangladesh schools, colleges ill-prepared to reopen

Ershad Kamol | Published: 23:40, Jan 29,2021 | Updated: 00:13, Jan 30,2021


Many government and non-government school head teachers have said that they will not be able to maintain all the guidelines set by the government after the mid-February reopening of educational institutions.

They said that many government primary schools did not have any wash blocks or facilities for washing hands while most government secondary schools, non-government schools and kindergartens were running with very limited number of washrooms as well as classrooms.

It would be difficult to maintain health guidelines, they added.

Head teachers of several non-government schools and kindergartens told New Age on Thursday that they would instruct parents to provide hand sanitisers and masks to ensure safety amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The parents, on the other hand, said that forcing them to buy sanitisers would mean additional financial burden.

Education minister Dipu Moni and state minister for primary and mass education Md Zakir Hossain in the past one week told the press on several occasions that they had plans to reopen educational institutions in the second week of February in a limited scale if the COVID-19 situation did not further deteriorate.

On Thursday, Dipu Moni said that Higher Secondary Certificate and Secondary School Certificate candidates would be asked to go to institutions six days a week while other classes would attend classes by rotation so that the number of students remained at a manageable level.

She also said that the syllabuses of the SSC and HSC would be further streamlined so that the secondary students could complete the syllabuses in 60 days while the higher secondary students could finish it in 84 days.

Zakir Hossian told New Age on Thursday that they had plans to bring Class V students regularly while pre-primary students would not be asked to go to schools unless COVID-19 situation became normal.

Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education and Directorate of Primary  Education last week separately passed instructions for the educational institutions for cleaning all the institutions that remained closed from March 17, 2020 and develop facilities maintaining guidelines given by the agencies by February 4 for the reopening of institutions on short notice.

As per the last instructions passed on Friday, educational institutions would remain closed till February 14.

The DPE asked the 65,625 government primary schools across the country to develop facilities from the School Level Improvement Project fund.

The DSHE did not mention the source of funds for developing facilities for maintaining health guidelines for the pupils, teachers and staffers.

‘From the School Level Improvement Project, a school gets between Tk 15,000 and Tk 40,000, depending on the number of students. With this money it will not be possible to develop health safety facilities when 30 per cent of the government primary schools do not have wash blocks,’ said Md Anwarul Islam Tota, president of Bangladesh Primary Teachers Association.

‘Most of the government primary schools also have a very limited number of classrooms,’ he said.

Government Laboratory High School and College head teacher Abu Sayeed Bhuiyan, Matijheel Government Boys School and College head teacher Syed Hafizul Islam and Kushtia Zila school head teacher Kushtia Zila School head teacher Md Aftekharul Islam said many of the 683 government secondary schools also do not have sufficient number of washrooms to follow the health guidelines.

Initially, they said, they would purchase soap or sanitisers with the limited health fund they have.

‘But with the existing fund, it will not be possible to continue for a long time unless we get a separate fund for this purpose,’ said Abu Sayeed, president of the Secondary Government School Teachers Association.

In random interviews with teachers of the most expensive non-government schools in Dhaka said that they would be able to maintain the guidelines like maintaining three feet physical distance in the classrooms, developing facilities to take body temperature while entering the classrooms and providing hand-wash facilities and sanitisers.

However, Madaertek Abdul Aziz School and College principal Md Aktaruzzaman, Goran Adarsha High School head teacher Mohammad Abul Hossain, Rose Garden High School principal Md Mizanur Rahman and teachers of several other non-government schools and kindergartens said that they would provide sufficient soaps at the existing washrooms and ask the pupils to come with sanitisers.

‘We will also ask the students to provide medical reports mentioning their body temperature per week,’ Abul Hossain said.

Parents of such schools, however, said that they would face additional pressure amid the COVID-19 outbreak if they were asked to provide health reports and sanitisers.

DSHE director general Syed Golam Faruk said that the schools would have to provide the facilities. ‘We will ensure that the guidelines are followed through strong surveillance,’ Faruk said.       

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