Big business and retailers are always appeased, whereas children, our most valuable national asset, are neglected
Both Unicef and Unesco are correct in their assessment that schools should be the first institutions to reopen after lockdown. Indeed, they should have been the last to close. The reality though, has been the opposite: Educational institutions in Bangladesh have remained shuttered since March 16 of last year. More than a year later, students and teachers are still anxiously waiting, uncertain about the future.
This could be nothing short of catastrophic for Bangladesh, as an entire generation stands to miss out on schooling, and a valuable period of their lives. As Unicef and Unesco have said in a joint statement: “Closing schools mortgages our future for unclear benefits to our present. We must prioritize better. We can reopen schools safely, and we must."
Often, the risk of transmission has been used as an excuse to keep schools closed, and yet, this has been done while restaurants, cafes, and other business have been allowed to stay open. Even amid the current hard lockdown, nearly normal traffic has been seen out in the roads, with factories and large businesses carrying on as usual. It makes no sense, then, for the education sector to have to suffer the most.
Sadly, our priorities seem to be topsy-turvy. Big business and retailers are always appeased, whereas children, our most valuable national asset, are neglected. The generation at the cusp of finishing their secondary schooling and looking to move on to university are now frustrated and demotivated. Many have lost the social skills necessary for life, due to prolonged periods of isolation, or online interactions only.
We need to get our priorities straight. This means taking the education of our children and youth seriously, and opening up our schools.