Govt had to shut schools, colleges as COVID spread to children, says Dipu Moni

Students share never ending stories of their homebound lives at Viqarunnisa Noon School and College in Dhaka on Sunday, Sept 12, 2021 on return to in-person classes after the long coronavirus shutdown. Photo: Kazi Salahuddin Razu
Education Minister Dipu Moni says they had no alternative to closing schools and colleges after the surging COVID-19 infections spread among children.

While attending a meeting on the new board textbooks on Friday, she discussed the issue of children getting infected on Thursday.

“I spoke to the health directorate’s Director General Khurshid Alam last evening. He gave me a picture of the hospitals around the country, and how children were getting infected,” she said.

“This is new. We’d to take this into account right away. I spoke to the prime minister and the health minister immediately after that, made the decision and subsequently notified the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education. I also had a chat with the cabinet secretary.”

Online classes will continue in the meantime, Dipu Moni said. “We’ve asked everyone to refrain from going to schools in person for two weeks. We’ll observe the situation and then take the next step,”

Following the emergence of the highly-contagious omicron variant, the government has pushed a fresh set of instructions to curb its spread.

Despite that, the education minister recently said the government had no immediate plans to close in-person classes as institutions were yet to report COVID-19 outbreak.

After DGHS reported over 10,000 cases on Thursday, Health Minister Zahid Maleque announced the decision to bar schools and colleges from holding in-person classes earlier on Friday.

Dipu Moni said, “We’re forced to shut schools and colleges so the infection does not spread there amid the spike in cases.

“We’re worried about it due to an uptick in the cases. There’s no reason to think that we’re happily taking this decision.

“The education institutions were shut for a long time. But the lessons did not stop. The students could not meet their friends in classrooms at that time. Many students were upset about it. That’s why we’re against the closure, but our hands are forced now.”

But the minister said the closure will have no impact on the publication of HSC results.

“The vaccination drive at schools and colleges will continue and the teachers will keep attending offices following health rules.”

On holding in-person classes at universities, she said, “The universities will decide for themselves, though we’d say not to allow in-person classes. They can follow their own online methods.”

“If students [residing on campuses] fall sick, they will go to isolation centres, hospitals or back to their homes. I hope they will strictly follow the health rules.

“We’ve heard that the university students are a bit indifferent to [the health rules].”

Once the schools and colleges reopen, authorities will trial the new curriculum for first and sixth grade in 61 schools, Dipu Moni said.

“We’ll also try to start it online though there are group projects and activities within [the new curriculum].”