The government's decision to shut down educational institutions amid confirmation of locally-transmitted coronavirus cases has enabled worried guardians to heave a sigh of relief.
The authorities of educational institutions and educationalists also appreciated the move saying they have been waiting for such a decision as the presence of students fell sharply since the announcement of coronavirus cases in the country on March 8.
They urged the government to intensify an awareness campaign so that parents keep their children at their respective homes safely to avert the risk of being infected going outside.
Education Minister Dipu Moni on Monday announced that academic activities from primary to higher level will remain suspended until March 31 aiming to prevent the spread of deadly coronavirus.
She said all the public and private schools, colleges and dormitories of madrasahs will remain closed during the period.
The minister urged the students to stay in their respective homes and remain alert. "If the students go outside their homes, our decision of closing the educational institutions won't work. So, it must be ensured that they (students) will stay indoors."
The Dhaka University was also closed on Monday for the rest of the month (from March 18 to 28) to prevent the spread of the virus.
Bangladesh has so far recorded eight coronavirus cases with the confirmation of three cases, including two children, on Monday.
Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) confirmed that the virus has started transmitting locally.
"It's a good decision. I think the government should have closed the educational institutions last week following the detection of coronavirus cases in the country. I'm now somewhat relieved that my daughter will stay home safely," said Farzana Haque, guardian of a 10th grader of Faizur Rahman Ideal Institute.
She said her daughter's studies will be affected due to the closure of the school as her house tutor also went back to his village home since his university was also shut. "But the safety is first, then the studies."
Another guardian, Jahangir Alam, said, "My two kids have been studying at Mirpur Brach of Cambrian School and College. I was deeply worried about the safety of children as I was sending them school taking risks thinking of their upcoming exams. I heaved a sigh of relief hearing the news of the closure of educational institutions."
Haider Ali, guardian of a student of Monipur High School and College, thanked the government for closing the education institution in due time. "I stopped my two children from going to school since Tuesday last. I also told their tutors not to come to our home. I urged them to go for videoconferencing."
Mira Roy. Principal of Shahid Babul Academy in the city's Khilgaon area, said the attendance of students marked a sharp fall since last week while guardians were mounting pressure on her to shut down the institution. "So, we had been waiting for the government decision. I think it's a very timely decision."
She said they have already distributed leaflets among the students and guardians about how to stay safe from the coronavirus. "I think the government should now carry out a strong campaign so that the guardians don't allow their children to go outside for safety reason."
Mirza Meherunnesa, headmasters of Najirabazar Islamia Government Primary School in the Old part of Dhaka, also hailed the government decision. "Most students were not coming to schools for the last few days. We're also in hesitation about what to do as the mid-term exams are scheduled to begin on April 5. As the government has now announced to close the institution, we're relieved now."
Contacted, Vice-Chancellor of Jagannath University Dr Mijanur Rahman said, "We can't stop the spread of coronavirus by only shutting down educational institutions. Public awareness is very important to check its outbreak."
He said parents should now remain alert so that their children do not go outside or to playgrounds to avoid the infection of the virus. "Parents will go outside for their jobs, and can contract the virus. So, they should also remain alert and keep them protected from the virus."
Dr Mijan said the government should ensure that all those arriving here from abroad are staying in 14-day quarantine to prevent the local transmission.
Educationist Rasheda K Choudhury also welcomed the government decision saying it was necessary at this time.
She also appreciated the government for taking such a decision after nearly one week following the detection of coronavirus case, enabling teachers to teach the kids about how to keep them protected from the virus.
Rasheda K Choudhury, however, feared that discrepancy in the education sector will deepen following the closure of schools and colleges. "The children now can learn many things from the digital media. The learning process of those having access to the interment will not be affected much if their guardians remain alert and ensure the best use of their time during the vacation period. But most of the students, mainly the ones living in rural areas, have no such scope to learn. So, it will widen the discrepancy in the sector."
Prof SM Hafizur Rahman of Dhaka University's Institute of Education and Research (IER) said the government has taken a timely decision by closing educational institutions as the number of coronavirus patients keeps growing in the country.
"Many countries across the world have already shut down their educational institutions amid serious panic over the coronavirus. Many guardians were also seeking the closure of institutions for the safety of their children. But now the guardians should remain alert to keep their children safe and healthy," he observed.