Losses that children will incur from not being in school may never be recouped, say experts
Soon after Bangladesh reported its first coronavirus cases in March last year, the government announced a closure of all educational institutions, which are yet to reopen after nearly 16 months.
The government has made it clear that it will not lift the shutdown until the pandemic situation improves.
Earlier this week, the Unicef urged governments and decision-makers across the world to prioritize safe reopening of schools to avoid a generational catastrophe in education.
In response to that, Education Minister Dipu Moni said on Thursday that international organizations claim that children are less likely to get infected if schools are reopened.
“However, recently many children have been infected with the Delta variant. This needs to be taken into consideration as well,” she said during a virtual press conference.
Considering the current rate of infection and fatalities, it’s not possible to lift the school shutdown, the minister said.
“Educational institutions will reopen only when the risk level is low enough to not spread the infection among the students and their families,” said Dipu Moni.
There’s no substitute for classroom learning, but the government will not put children at the risk of getting infected, added the education minister.
‘Losses may never be recouped’
The losses that children and young people will incur from not being in school may never be recouped, according to academics.
They say the closure has mostly affected primary school students and the consequence of not being in schools ranges from learning loss to mental distress.
Students learn social and cultural skills at schools, which plays a vital role in their future and they are missing out on those due to the shutdown, say experts.
According to educationist Rasheda K Chowdhury, cultural activities held in schools positively impact the student.
“But as we are going through an unusual situation, there is not much to do other than wait till the government finds a way to reopen the schools,” said the executive director of Mass Literacy Campaign.
Bangladesh is the only country in South Asia and among the 14 counties globally that has kept its schools fully closed amid the pandemic, according to a Unicef statement issued in February.
With schools now shut for almost a year and half, children are losing interest in learning, say parents.
Mymensingh residents Shahidul Islam and Selina Akter have two children–a third grader and a fourth grader.
"They do not want to study at home. Now they spend their time playing video games and watching cartoons on television,” said their mother Akter.
But it’s not only children who are affected, but also the teachers.
Sumon Kumar Dash, a kindergarten teacher in Sunamganj, says many of his colleagues had to quit their profession due to the financial crisis induced by the shutdown.
The coronavirus situation in the country continues to remain critical, with more than 200 deaths logged almost every day in the past ten days.
Bangladesh has reported a little over 1.08 million cases, including 17,465 deaths, since the pandemic broke out last year.