When education should have been the topmost priority after a successful start of vaccine rollout, our pupils are being ruthlessly victimised by the whims and indecision of the education ministry.
From deciding whether or not classes will resume to holding examinations – the indecision prolonged, pushing the academic future of the students into further uncertainty and adding to the woes of the guardians.
Students from pre-primary to higher secondary are under-aged and they have no choice or voice. At this age, they are most likely to be happy with getting promotion to the next class without examination.
But this is not that easy for undergrads or others in higher studies, because examination results for them are not just a ticket to the next grade, but a scorecard for a future career.
So, the students of seven colleges affiliated with Dhaka University could not accept the thoughtless and abrupt suspension of exams. They took to the street, blocked road intersections in the New Market area in the morning on Tuesday, demanding that they want to sit for exams.
The ministry took until late afternoon to decide that exams will continue and only a brief announcement in this regard made the youths leave the streets.
For hours, the city's traffic almost collapsed, but city dwellers also had a chance to see innocent-looking boys greeting police persons with roses when a water cannon was put ready for action – a qualitative change in student protests.
The perception that the authorities break hibernation only after some outbursts became true again the day after as the National University announced examination schedules in May following students' protest near the same venue in the capital city. The students want exams to be held right now as Covid-19 has already cost them one full academic year and further delay in exams would mean another year lost.
University students also shouted for the reopening to make their voice heard.
Students of different public universities intensified their protests, demanding that the authorities concerned reopen halls that have been kept closed due to the pandemic.
In the face of the protests, the education ministry decided to reopen public and private universities on 24 May.
Indecision was also there regarding the HSC examination. Keeping the examinees in suspense for six months, the ministry announced that examinees would not need to sit for exams and that their merit would be assessed on the basis of SSC results. That unusual results came out in January.
In a normal year, SSC exams take place in February. This time nothing is being heard about the SSC or the next HSC exams.
In January, two ministries in education – the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education – appeared to have reactivated their functionaries to prepare for school reopening. They held meetings and asked schools to dust off their classrooms and premises by 4 February.
February is nearing end and schools are still closed.
Europe is among the worst sufferers from Covid-19 and a second wave caused stricter lockdowns in major cities there. But Finland kept schools closed for three months only and reopened those in mid-May last year.
A survey found the three months' experience of distance learning in Finland not productive as not all parents were able to assist their children at home while schools did not have laptops for all students, while others had to rely on mobile phones.
The Finnish education ministry brought most of the 530,000-odd students back to the classrooms as a survey indicated that three months' distance learning was not much productive as schools did not have laptops for all students.
The reopening of schools in Finland in mid-May did not cause an increase in Covid-19 infection rates, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare said in June.
Researches in Bangladesh also showed how online classes were not serving the goal and how a digital divide was widening among students in towns and villages. But our education ministries opted to continue the closure.
On 16 March last year, the government decided to keep all educational institutions closed for two weeks.
Later, the time was extended 14 times.
Pakistan started reopening schools in January.
In India, most states reopened schools for higher classes in January.
In the UK, university students have been asked to stay in their dormitories although classes were held online. Secondary schools have remained open since September and teachers were asked to be present at schools to aid O-level examinees, Din Mohsin, a Bangladeshi schoolteacher, said from London.
Researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a report in January said there has been little evidence that reopened schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.
We must be more caring for our children than many other countries. Decisions to send pupils back to classes in many countries show why they are well ahead of us in terms of quality of education.
The opinion of a guardian of two students – one of a public university and the other of a secondary high school – was so simple that it might even sound funny to our policymakers.
"Classes are closed. But are the children staying at home really? Everything is open and everyone is going everywhere. Only teachers and students are not going to schools," said the father of two, finding no reason why schools are closed in his far-flung village since a few Covid cases are still detected only in Dhaka.
Perhaps all guardians of the country's nearly 4.5 crore students have such questions and confusions in their minds.