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Schools are reopening after a long shutdown. How ready are they?

  • Kazi Nafia Rahman, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2021-09-08 12:15:16 BdST

Some schools and colleges in Dhaka are preparing to return on Sept 12 after a hiatus of one and a half years forced by the coronavirus pandemic, but most schools have no measures to show for the restart.

Closed since March last year, schools and colleges have been covered in thick layers of dust, while grasses have grown long on the playgrounds.

Besides telling them to clean up and take steps to ensure hygiene, the government has ordered the institutions to keep handheld thermometers and hand sanitisers or hand-washing spots at the ready.

Some schools are also preparing new routines. Students of Class Five and SSC and HSC candidates will return to regular classes, while the others will get in-person classes once a week. Online classes will continue in the rest of the days.

But the gate of Shaheedbagh Government Primary School in Pallabi was closed four days before the reopening, with garages for autorickshaws, rickshaws and cars set up on both sides of the entrance.

Dust covered the classrooms and brickbats gathered outside the library. An overturned table was also there. Stagnant water was seen in potholes in the playground.

A group of young men were hanging out in the field. Some students said the youths regularly visit the school to do drugs.

Moni, a student of Class III, who gave a single name, said they often visit the school to submit answer sheets. The classrooms and the toilets have not been cleaned, he said.  

“We'd cleared the field earlier. Dengue mosquito will grow in stagnant water.”

“Boys smoke marijuana in the field and make it dirty. School is reopening. How'll we return to classes in such a dirty environment?” 

Mirpur Girls’ Ideal Laboratory Institute and Adarsha High School at Section-10 had garbage in the fields.

Amina Rashid, head of the morning shift at the girls’ school, said they have washed the classrooms once and do it again. They would also arrange thermometer, hand sanitiser and hand-washing spots, she said.  

“We'll make seating plans in line with the routine in meetings with the teachers. Parents will be asked to send food from home because the children will not be allowed to have food from outside.”

In one of the classrooms at Adarsha High School, benches were stacked on top of one another. The school has no separate space for hand-washing.

“We'll disinfect the entire school before the reopening,” said Noore Alam, headmaster of the school.

“We’ve drawn up the routines. Online classes will also continue. What'll the students, who've classes once a week, will do? And many parents won’t send their children.”

The school has two thermometers and it is planning to buy more.

Abu Sayeed Bhuiyan, the headmaster of Government Laboratory High School, said they will also keep online classes going along with in-person learning.

“We kept the school clean due to the spread of dengue fever. As part of additional preparations, we're keeping sinks, soap and water at the gate to facilitate hand-washing.”

MDC Model Institute at Mirpur Section-12 has set up hand-washing spots at its entrances. Workers were cutting grasses in the field with mowers.

“We're disinfecting the classrooms. The labs are also being prepared,” said Headteacher Anwar Hossain. “We’ve also bought thermometers. The students will wash their hands after having their temperature checked. We'll keep masks at the gates so that they can wear if they forget to bring one.” 

To avoid gathering, he said, one class of students will be allowed to enter every half an hour. 

He believes the school will not face a problem in complying with the health rules in holding in-person classes in phases.

Most of the teachers and staffers have been vaccinated. Some aged between 25 and 30 have registered but have not been called for the inoculation.

Hamida Ali, principal of South Point School and College, said they were setting up hand-washing spots.

“We must keep the children well. Then we can think about study. We'll give the necessary instructions to the students in the classes. We'll do our best. Parents also need to be conscious.”

She advised parents to provide the children with hand sanitiser.