Rajuk Uttara Model College has 1,600 students in Class XII and 850 students in Class X. Each of its classrooms can accommodate 35 students of Class XII, maintaining health guidelines, and 27 students of Class X – whose classrooms are a little smaller.
When it will reopen after the year-long closure caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the college will need 38 teachers for each subject to run the educational activities of Class X and Class XII three days a week.
If classes are run on six days, the college will need 76 teachers per subject, said Dewan Mohammed Tamzidujzaman, vice principal (Exam & Coordination).
But the college has only 17 teachers for mathematics and 19 for English. The number is far lower for the other subjects.
There will be a teacher shortage if the government decides for classes to be run every day. And unfortunately, quality education will be hampered, Tamzidujzaman told The Business Standard.
"We are worried about running the classes every day. But we will try our level best to operate classes following the government's directives," he said.
"We might try to hire quality teachers to overcome the crisis. But it is hard to recruit good and skilled teachers as they are few in number," he added.
The situation is far worse in most of the educational institutions across the country as the teacher-student ratio is very high in Bangladesh.
The ratio at the primary and secondary school level is 1:37 and 1:45, respectively. It should be 1:30 in primary and 1:20 in secondary level, according to educators.
Experts say it will be hard for the educational institutions to run academic activities properly with a lack of teachers amid the new normal situation. They express doubt ensuring quality education will not be possible within the current arrangement.
The government has not yet made any plan to recruit new teachers to overcome the upcoming situation.
It is planning to reopen the educational institutions in February as the Covid-19 infection situation is improving and the vaccination programme has begun.
Regular classes will be held only for the 10th and 12th grades once educational institutions across the country reopen after a protracted closure induced by the pandemic.
Students of other classes will have in-person classes in their educational institutions once a week and take their tasks for the whole week.
The ministry's directive is that only one student may sit on a bench if the bench is less than five feet long. Two students may sit on a bench if the length is five feet or more.
Professor Emeritus of Brac University Manzoor Ahmed told The Business Standard that he does not see any strong government initiative to make the classes effective.
"There has been a huge teachers' crisis at educational institutions for a long time. The crisis will impact academic activities now. At the same time, there is a lack of planning and motivation," he said.
"The government should allocate funds for education for the upcoming days. But unfortunately, we do not see any move from the authorities. The government should engage NGOs in managing the classes in a new form," Prof Manzoor added.
Professor Dr Siddiqur Rahman, former director of the Institute of Education and Research, said, "We have been demanding recruitment of skilled teachers for schools and colleges. We have even recommended the formation of a national teachers' recruitment commission in the National Education Policy. But the government has not paid heed to our demands."
Meanwhile, educational institutions across the country have started cleaning to ready the classrooms for reopening academic activities, following the strict health guideline issued on 23 January.
The guideline was prepared in line with the World Health Organisation, Unesco, Unicef, World Bank, and the United States government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's direction.
Rahinul Islam Siddique, principal of Dinajpur Collectorate School and College, said they have held meeting with the teachers and guardians to resume the classes ensuring Covid-19 safety guidelines. But he is concerned over the shortage of teachers.
"We have observed that it will be tough not only for us but for the majority of schools to run the academic activities with the shortage of teachers. At the same time, recovering the learning losses of the students will not be fulfilled properly," he said.
There are about 2 lakh schools, colleges and madrasas from pre-primary to higher secondary level with more than 4 crore students and 20 lakh teachers across the country.
Professor Golam Faruk, director general of Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, said they are thinking about ensuring a quality education in the upcoming days. "We will do everything considering the real situation of our educational institutions," he said.
Dr Shahan Ara Begum, principal of Ideal School and College, told The Business Standard that it is tough for her institution to maintain the health guidelines properly as the institution is the largest one in terms of number of students.
"We need the highest dedication of the teachers to operate the classes. Otherwise, academic activities will be hampered," she said.
"Our campus and classrooms are cleaned already. We are now preparing about the accommodation of students in a room," she added.
According to Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics data, in 2017, 80% non-government (with MPO) and 33% non-government (without MPO) secondary schools are semi-pucca. The ratio of toilets to students is 1:41 in non-government (with MPO) secondary schools, however, it is 1:61 in non-government (without MPO) schools across the country.
On 16 March last year, the education ministry issued a press release on the government's decision to close all educational institutions and coaching centres from 18 to 31 March, considering students' safety amid the global pandemic.
Later, the closure was extended several times: first till 9 April, then 25 April, 5 May, 30 May, 6 August, 31 August, 3 October, 31 October, 14 November, 19 December, 16 January, and now 30 January.
Classes remained suspended since schools were closed but administrative activities had resumed gradually.
Earlier, the government also decided not to hold last year's Primary School Certificate (PSC), Junior School Certificate (JSC), Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and their equivalent exams due to the pandemic.
The PSC and JSC examinees will get automatic promotion to the next class, while HSC students will be assessed based on their JSC and Secondary School Certificate (SSC) results. All students from primary to secondary level will also be promoted automatically.