Opinion on reopening of schools
- Citizens' Platform for SDGs conducted an opinion poll over schools reopening
- 1,960 people participated in the survey, including 370 teachers and 576 guardians
- 69% teachers think govt cash aid a must for reopening schools with health guidelines
- 67% guardians disagree on paying extra fees for their children's health safety at schools
- 60% participants think the govt should reopen the schools immediately
- 55% guardians express concerns over health safety after schools reopen
- 51% guardians think their children are unable to follow health guidelines at schools
- 56% participants think guidelines can be implemented at educational institutions
- 39% participants think schools should not be reopened right now
The government should disburse one-time cash aid to schools across the country to help them get ready for reopening since rural institutions will not be able to resume classes by maintaining Covid-19 health guidelines due to a shortage of funds, experts have said.
They requested the government to also relaunch the Mid-day Meal Scheme for all pre-primary to secondary level students to prevent any dropouts.
Speaking at a virtual discussion entitled "Schools to Reopen: Are We Ready?" held by the Citizens' Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh on Tuesday, the participants also urged the government to take further initiatives for preventing child marriage and child labour, which could increase the number of students dropping out.
Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and convener of the Citizens' Platform for SDGs, presided over the programme, while Professor Emeritus of Brac University Dr Manzoor Ahmed delivered the welcome speech.
According to a survey unveiled by the platform at the event, 69% of teachers think that government financial aid is essential for reopening schools and maintaining health guidelines there.
Moreover, 67% of guardians do not agree on paying extra fees for safeguarding their children's health at school. The survey was conducted among 1,960 participants, including 370 teachers and 576 guardians, from 17 to 22 February all over the country.
Among the participants, 60% think that the government should reopen schools immediately, but 55% of guardians worry about health safety once the schools are reopened.
Besides, 56% of participants think that the health guidelines can be implemented at schools, but 51% of guardians believe their children will not be able to follow the guidelines at educational institutions.
"Going back to school is essential, but the government must ensure going back to learning too," said Campaign for Popular Education's (CAMPE) Executive Director Rasheda K Chowdhury, adding, "It is very unfortunate that the government has provided stimulus packages for many sectors but the education sector still remains untouched.
"The mid-day meal programme must be restarted so that the students can go to school willingly. The campaign must be resumed on an emergency basis to bring the students back to school. At the same time, the government must rethink the curriculum."
Rasheda K Chowdhury urged the private sector to support the schools in facing future challenges.
Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya said, "The Covid-19 pandemic revealed a vulnerability of Bangladesh's education sector. A good number of students are facing disparity as they did not have equal access to online classes.
"Schools in urban areas are ahead of those in rural areas in terms of making preparations for reopening. At the same time, the private schools are better prepared than the government ones."
Debapriya also pointed out that there was a significant possibility of the number of child marriages and child labour going up due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
For his part, Dr Manzoor Ahmed said, "It will not be wise to reopen all the schools at the same time. They can be reopened in multiple phases. Schools located in less Covid-19-prone areas can be reopened at first, then the others gradually after observing the overall situation.
"The government must take up a two-year plan to help recover the learning losses and to check the number of dropouts. The curriculum has to be recast too. Only Bangla and Mathematics can be mandatory for primary students, and Bangla, Mathematics, English and Science can be compulsory for secondary-level students."
He also emphasised forming upazila-level committees comprising education officials, teachers, guardians, local representatives and NGOs. "Tk10 crore must be allocated to each upazila for recovering learning losses," Dr Ahmed said.
In his remarks, Prof Dr Golam Faruk, director general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, said that schools had completed all preparations for resuming classes. "We are ready to support the schools if they face a financial crisis."