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Dhaka Tribune

Dhaka schools: To open or not to open?

Worried parents are in dilemma about sending children to schools, but most students want to go back to class

Update : 29 Sep 2020, 11:26 AM

There has been ongoing confusion over when the educational institutions will reopen.

All the educational institutions have been closed since March 17 in Bangladesh and the restriction will continue till October 3, as of the current plan. 

For Tazrian Haider Raisa, an eighth grader, it has become almost essential to reopen the schools immediately.

Raisa, a student of Viqarunnisa Noon School and College in Dhaka, told Dhaka Tribune: “We do not enjoy online classes because we actually do not understand the topic clearly as most of the lectures are not interactive. Moreover, it's really boring to look at a mobile phone screen for over 40 minutes and to hear the lectures.

“Even the whiteboard does not appear clearly on the phone,” she added.

She wants the school to open immediately, but at the same time is afraid of the crisis situation created by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Also Read - Children in rural Bangladesh suffering with no schools amid Covid-19 pandemic

Her father Reaz Haider on the other hand does not think it is the right time to reopen the schools.

“My child will be at school for five hours a day where she has to attend classes in a congested situation. Maintaining safety for the children will be difficult,” he said.

The father also pointed out that the parents, who will travel from one place to another to take the child to school, and who will be among crowds after school ends, will also face the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

Dhaka city has so far confirmed the highest number of Covid-19 cases across Bangladesh. As of September 28, at least 94,219 Covid-19 positive cases were reported in Dhaka, according to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).

In this city, parents and students now stand at a divided position where most parents are against sending their children to school even if that opens, whereas students want to go back to class not for the sake of academic purposes, but also for the sake of returning to a normal life. 

How effective is distant learning

After the classes were suspended, the government asked educational institutions to continue online classes so that the students remain in touch with education. 

Most students consider online classes as ineffective and want to return to physical classes.

Also Read - Covid-19 pandemic: How other countries are reopening schools

In conversation with Dhaka Tribune, many students, mostly junior graders, said they miss school, friends, teachers, and curricular activities a lot.

A global survey by Educo to assess the feelings and experiences of children and youth during the Covid-19 pandemic finds that about 22% of the children missed seeing friends while 21% of them said they missed going to school.

A rapid assessment on “Impact of Covid-19 on Education in Bangladesh,” released in May, found that 56% of the students are not taking part in online classes or Sangsad Television.

Among the respondents, 14% said they are not studying at all, and 58% said they are studying moderately at home. Only 28% of students are doing well in continuing studying at home, it says.

The survey data suggest some causes behind “studying very little” and “studying not at all.” Among respondents, 44% students said they are not getting any direction from schools, 22% reported scarcity of food as an issue, 19% reported non-supportive families, 18% reported poor mental health condition and 11% cited lack of environment to study at home.

Parents’ vs students’ perspective

Adel Mahmood, father of a kindergarten student, said his son was interested in online classes in the initial stage, but now does not like it much.

Although his wife believes schools should reopen on a limited scale first, Mahmood believes there are still risks of community transmission. 

Also Read - Why should schools in Bangladesh reopen next month?

“Maintaining health hygiene is easier for an adult; for a child, it is almost impossible when they are alone. A teacher cannot monitor 40 children at a time in class,” he said, explaining why he is against it.

Anjuman Ara Dina, mother of a seventh grader at Sunnydale School, said the regular online classes are not fit for academic development. But it is not yet time to reopen the schools, she said.

Mofizul Islam, father of a seventh grader at Manda Multimedia Kindergarten School, said four children sit in a bench at school and there is not enough health and hygiene facilities at school.

He said: “There are crowds before and after school at the gate as parents gather outside. Also, the school classrooms are crowded where maintaining hygiene is difficult.

“I can only send him to school if schools can arrange separate shifts for maintaining safety or can assure that only two children will sit in a bench maintaining social distancing.”

Zinat Roksana, mother of Mahdi Al Munawar, a kindergarten student, said she can see her child missing school, but she is also doubtful on whether schools can maintain health advisories and social distancing.

Also Read - Educational institutions unlikely to reopen soon

Nazah Jamila Kaiser, a fifth grader at International Hope School Bangladesh, said she misses school, the uniform, the premises, extra curricular activities, and tiffin sharing with friends.

But her mother Amina Kaiser is firm that she will not send her to school even if it opens.

“My daughter is facing academic losses as online classes are not that effective. But I will not send her to school until I am assured that the situation has improved or the vaccine has arrived in Bangladesh,” she said.

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