Bangladesh reopens colleges after 18-month COVID shutdown

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Dhaka, Bangladesh – For the primary time in 18 months, Adnan Hasan finds himself carrying his faculty uniform – a crisp white shirt and blue pants – and standing in a queue.

The fifth-grader, carrying a masks, waited earlier than the arched gate of capital Dhaka’s Udayan College on Sunday, as a whole lot of hundreds of youngsters in Bangladesh returned to their school rooms after 543 days – one of many world’s longest coronavirus shutdowns.

As youngsters waited to enter Udayan College, two employees stood on the gate, allotting hand sanitiser to these coming into, whereas the opposite checked their temperatures with a thermometer.

Many Bangladeshi youngsters returned to their school rooms after 543 days[Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera]

The final time Hasan handed via this gate in March final 12 months, he was not standing in a queue nor was his temperature checked. Additionally they didn’t have to put on a masks.

However the pandemic modified the whole lot, forcing thousands and thousands of youngsters like him internationally to remain house.

In a report final week, UNICEF warned that extended faculty closures through the COVID disaster accentuated “alarming inequities” for greater than 430 million youngsters in South Asia.

“College closures in South Asia have compelled a whole lot of thousands and thousands of youngsters and their academics to transition to distant studying in a area with low connectivity and machine affordability,” UNICEF’s regional director, George Laryea-Adjei, stated in an announcement.

“Because of this, youngsters have suffered monumental setbacks of their studying journey.”

Now that he was again at school, Hasan was ecstatic.

“I can’t describe in phrases how I’m feeling getting again to my faculty,” he instructed Al Jazeera. “I’m assembly all my buddies after ages. It’s nice.”

Many faculties welcomed their college students with candies and flowers [Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera]

‘No different to in-person lessons’

Like Hasan, hundreds of scholars of main and secondary colleges throughout Bangladesh returned to their lessons, some in Dhaka adorned with balloons and ribbons.

Many faculties welcomed their college students with candies and flowers as youngsters hugged one another in pleasure.

Training Minister Dipu Moni on Sunday warned in opposition to any lax enforcement of security measures within the colleges.

“The scholars of the primary to fourth grades, and sixth to ninth grades, will attend lessons as soon as per week for an preliminary interval of three weeks,” she stated.

Moni stated those that are scheduled to take a seat for public exams on the finish of fifth, tenth and twelfth grades will attend lessons day by day, including that each one different lessons will resume regularly.

In line with Bangladesh’s telecom operators’ affiliation, solely 41 p.c of its 169 million inhabitants have smartphones, with college students in rural districts struggling additional as a result of an absence of high-speed web.

A examine carried out by the Bangladeshi NGO BRAC discovered that about 56 p.c of the nation’s college students weren’t linked with on-line or recorded lessons through the pandemic.

“For these underprivileged college students, there is no such thing as a possibility however to attend in-person lessons to get the teachings. So I imagine the federal government has made an excellent choice by reopening the faculties,” educationist Syed Md Golam Faruk instructed Al Jazeera.

Nearly 97 p.c of the nation’s academics and workers have been vaccinated, says the federal government [Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera]

College students additionally agreed.

“Sure, there have been on-line lessons. We even acquired promoted to the subsequent grade via our on-line exams. However there is no such thing as a different to in-person lessons,” Zarif Raihan, a scholar of Dhaka’s Monipur Excessive College, instructed Al Jazeera.

“We attend lessons to see our buddies, chit-chat with them, hand around in the college canteen or within the faculty subject. We don’t attend lessons only for the sake of studying. Sadly, on-line lessons took away all of the enjoyable a part of studying,” he stated.

Raihan stated, “Issues have modified loads [since the pandemic], however the pleasure of being within the faculty premises stays the identical.”

Opening with warning

Bangladesh on Sunday recorded 51 deaths from COVID-19, taking the whole loss of life toll to 26,931. With 1,871 new infections recorded, the variety of complete infections is greater than 1.5 million.

To reopen the faculties, virtually 97 p.c of the nation’s academics and workers had been vaccinated, based on the federal government.

The college authorities are additionally taking a lot of precautionary measures.

College students have been instructed to make sure hygiene and keep distance from their friends in school rooms. The benches that used to suit four-five college students now host solely two at most. They’ve additionally been barred from bringing any home-cooked meals on the premises.

College students in a classroom sustaining distance between them, in Dhaka [Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera]

Syeda Akhter, the top at Dhaka’s Narinda Authorities Excessive College, instructed Al Jazeera they’ve been strictly following the well being tips and protocols issued by the federal government.

“We measure the temperature of every scholar on the faculty entrance. We additionally make it possible for they wash or sanitise their fingers. On the classroom, college students are instructed to take a seat three toes aside to keep up social distance,” Akhter stated.

Sheikh Sharok Ahmed, the top trainer of Mars Laboratory College within the capital, stated they had been permitting 50 p.c attendance within the classroom.

“We’re operating 4 shifts as an alternative of two common shifts, in order that all the college students could be accommodated,” he instructed Al Jazeera.

Ahmed stated the coronavirus an infection charge within the nation is reducing and hoped the faculties will return to their regular states quickly.

“The federal government talked about a caveat that if an infection charges rise, then the faculties would possibly face a shutdown once more. However I’m hoping the scenario will get higher,” he stated.

The enjoyment and enthusiasm of scholars and academics, nonetheless, had been in distinction to some dad and mom who concern a hurried reopening could put their youngsters vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.

“The an infection charge has decreased if we examine with July or August once we witnessed the third wave of coronavirus. However COVID remains to be there and I’m not feeling comfy sending my youngsters to highschool,” Mahbubul Haque, father of an eighth-grader, instructed Al Jazeera.

Shahnaz Begum, mom of a highschool scholar, disagreed.

“Due to the college closure, our youngsters had been pissed off. They had been all locked up inside properties and had been getting hooked on their units. This faculty opening has come as a blessing for them,” she stated.

Educationist Faruk additionally believes the reopening of faculties will do extra good than the fears of hurt being expressed by the dad and mom.

“The college closure in Bangladesh has been one of many longest on the planet. There was no possibility earlier than us however to open the faculties, as extended closure through the pandemic worsened the inequalities for thousands and thousands of youngsters throughout Bangladesh,” he stated.