Total 10% reluctant to maintain basic hygiene practices
Around 16% of students have panicked since the closure of all educational institutions from March 17 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey by Brac.
The survey also found the pandemic had created a negative attitude towards study among a large number of students, and only 90% regularly washed their hands with soap.
The study also suggests that limitations in necessary arrangements such as television, internet, electricity or dish tv connections and language barriers for students from ethnic minorities, are key reasons students may struggle with distance learning being offered by the government authorities.
The findings of the survey, “Impact of Covid-19 on education in Bangladesh,” and a number of recommendations from students were revealed at a virtual discussion held on Saturday.
State Minister for Ministry of Primary and Mass Education (MoPME), Zakir Hossain, joined the event as chief guest. Alamgir Muhammad Mansurul Alam, additional secretary, MoPME, Ratan Chandra Pandit, additional secretary, MoPME, Tapan Kumar Ghosh, director general, Bureau of Non-Formal Education, Md Fasiullah, director general, Department of Primary Education, Anir Chowdhury, policy advisor, a2i, Sun Lei, head of education, UNESCO, Nor Shirin Mohkhtar, head of education, UNICEF, Fahmida Shabnam, team leader, Department for International Development, Ali Md Shahiduzzaman, program specialist, USAID, and Dr Safiqul Islam, director, Brac, among others, spoke at the event moderated by KAM Morshed, senior director of Brac.
State Minister Zakir Hossain said the government is working on introducing the toll-free hotline 3336, so students can get assistance from teachers over the phone. The hotline will be launched this month.
“Moreover, after Sangsad Television, we have taken the initiative to deliver classes through Bangladesh Betar. With support from the government platform Muktopaath, we are also trying to launch subject based e-learning courses for teachers,” he said.
“During this pandemic, we took an initiative to introduce special training for teachers through e-learning courses, which will be launched from July,” added the minister.
Brac Director Safiqul Islam said preparing teachers at a level which makes them comfortable with digital learning is necessary.
“As we found that many students do not prefer the existing distance learning methods, we need to find out the reasons behind this trend,” he added.
“Through online distance learning platforms, Bangladesh can keep the momentum of education up, as well as inclusiveness and equity for students,” said Safiqul.
BRAC conducted the survey from May 4-7, 2020, covering 1,938 students studying in primary and secondary schools of 16 districts to assess the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on students and their learning processes.
The study found that panicking is higher among students with disabilities (29%). About 17% of female students, students of secondary schools and those living in rural areas, and those studying in madrasas, are also passing their days in worry.
When asked what they do when they panic, most students answered that they remain silent and are in a bad mood all the time, or express unwillingness to read or play, or get scared when seeing outsiders. They also said they feel unwilling to talk to anyone or feel scared staying alone.
A large number of students (44%) with a negative attitude towards study reported that they are not getting any direction from schools. This was reported mostly by madrasa students and those living in rural areas. In 22% of cases, food crisis in the family appeared to be a major issue, especially for madrasa students and those living in urban areas.
About 90% wash hands with soap and water or use sanitizer, which the study found to be quite alarming, as the rest remain reluctant to maintain basic hygiene practices to protect themselves from coronavirus infection. Furthermore, 18% of the students said they go outside their homes in a lockdown.
A total of 54 students (3%) were survivors of some form of abuse during the holidays. They encountered psychological harassment in most of the cases (82%) alongside some other harassment such as physical torture, sexual harassment, confinement, and forced labour.
The study also said the number of abuse cases may be underreported due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Most of the respondents (54%) said they were in favour of taking extra classes once classes resume, to cover the time lost. Despite realising that the number of infections is on the rise, 49% of respondents wanted schools to open soon. They also recommended trimming the syllabus and relaxing examinations.
To help students recover from psychological trauma, the respondents suggested different measures, including arranging recreational activities once classes resume, providing gifts, or increasing the amount of stipends and strengthening online and distance learning processes.
The survey stressed that arrangements should be made to ensure student access to existing distance learning processes.