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University students in Bangladesh fear another year will be lost without COVID vaccine

  • Sabikunnahar Lipi and Rasel Sarker, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2021-05-25 03:49:04 BdST

bdnews24
Students demonstrate for the reopening of universities. File Photo

Shaybal Roy is among the nearly 30,000 students of Dhaka University who signed up on the institution’s website for coronavirus vaccine within the cut-off time. Once vaccinated, they hoped to attend in-person classes and take examinations more than a year after the pandemic-induced shutdown began.

It has been two more months, but Shaybal and the others are waiting to know when they can get their first jab while the government scrambles to secure enough AstraZeneca shots to complete second doses.

The mass vaccination drive will stop any day now with the government still needing to administer around 1.5 million doses on the people who got their first shots.

Why the authorities did not prioritise the students when it had enough doses, Shaybal asks.

“The teachers and employees of the university received vaccine, then why the students’ doses were delayed? Will this year pass as well with the excuse of a shortage of vaccine” asked the physics student. 

As the authorities of the public universities are waiting for the government’s decision on the reopening and vaccination, the lost time will add to the woes of the students when they search for jobs once they graduate.

Students of medical and nursing colleges are set to get a Chinese vaccine with the first shots due this week.

Dr Shamsul Haque, a line director at the Directorate General of Health Services, said they were yet to decide when the students of the universities will get the vaccine.

Students demonstrate for the reopening of universities. File Photo

Students demonstrate for the reopening of universities. File Photo

“We don’t have vaccine now. The national committee will decide when and how they (students) will get their vaccine.”

Shirina Akter, a student of Dhaka University's Accounting and Information Systems department, would have graduated last year had the pandemic not forced the government to shut down the institutions. 

She demanded the postponed exams be held at the earliest. “Complexities over job, age and other things will take my life down an uncertain path if I can’t take the exams this year.”

Bristy Chakraborty, a third-year undergrad of Jagannath University’s film and TV department, is frustrated about the pace at which the classes are held online.

“When the private universities are taking their semesters ahead, such sluggishness in

the public universities is unexpected and frustrating,” she said.

Partha Kajuri, a student of the university’s finance department, is against reopening the institutions before all the students get their vaccine.

“Life comes first before education. The authorities should think about how they will ensure vaccine for the students,” he said.

Some students of Jahangirnagar University were fortunate enough to get their doses after registering on the institution’s website, said one of them, Amartya Ray, who studies archaeology.   

Students demonstrate for the reopening of universities. File Photo

Students demonstrate for the reopening of universities. File Photo

WHAT THE AUTHORITIES SAY

Mizanur Rahman, director of students’ welfare at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology or BUET, said some of the students received vaccine after the institution sent their lists to the government.

It is in touch with the University Grants Commission and the education ministry, Mizanur said.

Kamaluddin Ahmed, acting vice-chancellor of Jagannath University, said they were waiting for the government’s response on how the students will be vaccinated.

Dhaka University VC Md Akhtaruzzaman urged the students to have patience, saying that the reopening depends on the availability of the vaccines.

Dil Afroza Begum, a member of the UGC, said they forwarded the lists of students to the government for their vaccination.

The government will need nearly 1 million doses to fully vaccinate all the students at the higher education levels, with two doses each, according to her.