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Students excited about heading back to classroom but concerns over health safety linger

  • Staff Correspondent,
    Published: 2021-09-07 02:38:53 BdST

With the school shut for over one and a half years, Aryan, now a student of Class Six at Mirpur’s Little Flowers Preparatory School, has outgrown his uniform. Now he is rushing for new school outfit as the educational institutions are set to reopen on Sept 12.     

“I need a uniform before the school reopens. I need to get it tailored before anything. I’ve prepared all the books for all subjects. I’ll go to school after a long time and it feels great,” said the boy, who gave a single name.

The decision to reopen schools and colleges sparked a celebratory mood among the pupils, but the parents are still worried about the health safety of the children amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the students are eagerly waiting to reunite with their classmates, parents said some of the children are under mental pressure over returning to classrooms and old routine of study.

Many schools have continued classes online, but not all students are able to get remote learning, so different quarters have been demanding the reopening for a long time.

Finally, the government on Friday announced the restart. On Sunday, it finalised the plan, according to which Class Five, SSC and HSC students will be back to regular classes while the others will get in-person classes once a week.

Rifat Amin, an SSC candidate from Monipur High School and College, said he had been waiting for the government’s announcement for a long time.

“The schools have been closed for all these days and the authorities kept extending the closure. I had no idea that it would suddenly reopen like this. It feels great. But it would have been better for us if this happened earlier.”

“The restart should have been made earlier for public exam candidates. My preparations would have been better if I had in-person classes. Yet I am happy that it’s finally reopening.”

“Staying at home for all this time has peeved the children. They are bored. They don’t want to study seriously. Online lessons are not too effective. Now they will learn at least something,” said private firm executive Faridul Islam, father to a Class Six student of Southpoint School and College and another Class 12 student of Gulshan Commerce College.

Ragib Nehal, a student of Class Eight at Engineering School and College, has contacted his school to find out when classes will begin and how they will be held.

“It feels great thinking I’ll meet up with friends again. Besides this, it’s easier to grasp lessons at in-person classes than it is online. Poor internet connection makes online classes irritating,” he said.

A student of Class 10 at Shaheed Bir Uttam Lt Anwar Girls' College, Mohaimina Islam is concerned about how to cope with classes after such a long break.

“It feels so great, but I’m worried about waking up early as I’ve been sleeping through the morning for a long time. It will take time to get used to things.”

Mohaimina’s elder sister, Muntaha Islam is an HSC candidate of Holy Cross Girl's School and College. She is concerned about returning to the chaotic traffic. “We have little time on our hands before the exam. Trips to and from Mirpur to Farmgate take up to three to four hours.”

Their mother Nahida Farhana Chowdhury, who is a physician, said she will send the girls to the school following instructions from the institution’s authorities.

She said the girls will follow health rules, such as masking and physical distancing, on their way to and from the school. “But how much the children will follow the rules inside schools? It is important to ensure handwashing facilities and sanitisers in the schools.”

“The health rules need to be monitored inside schools and colleges. Another significant matter is whether the teachers are all inoculated.”

The parent believes the government should have given more thoughts to the reopening decision before taking it.

Education Minister Dipu Moni said no one will be allowed to enter school premises without masks. She also advised against letting anyone sick inside classrooms.

Sufia Akter, a resident of Moghbazar, thinks everyone should remain on guard though a drop in coronavirus infections has “reduced the fear” of the disease.

“Our children will wear masks and have hand sanitiser. The risk will be reduced if all the students and parents remain vigilant.”

Her daughter studies in Class V at Malibagh’s Faizur Rahman Ideal School while her son is an SSC candidate of Dhaka Laboratory School and College – both delighted about returning to school. “They will meet up with friends. They haven’t studied a bit all these days. They were confined at home, always in trepidation. They will return to their normal lives if they return to classes.”

Asmuna Mortuza from Pallabi, however, is against sending her two daughters, who study at Mirpur Cantonment Public School, to the institution unless the infection rate drops to an “acceptable level”.

“I will not send my children to school by any means. Several of their classmates have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, some are in hospitals. I can’t knowingly put them at risk. I will send them to school only when the infection rate goes down.”

Parents like Asmuna feel the authorities should have reopened schools once the infection rate dropped below 5 percent.

Worried over the safety of school-going children, Tejgaon's Monir Hossain thinks the reopening should have happened after observing a couple of months more.

"Health rules have to be followed at schools. But the children will come together. How can the rules be maintained? And the children are getting infected as well. So mixing together will increase risks.”

"The authorities did not reopen schools when infections were much lower before. So why the rush now? As infections are dropping, waiting a few more days might’ve done away with the risks.

Monir’s daughter Jannatul Ferdous, a student of Class One at Tejgaon’s Holy Model Kindergarten, is under “mental stress”.

“When I told my child about going to school, she said she would not. Later she came to know that others will go as well and then agreed to go. She’s unsure…”