Universities had planned to resume in-person classes from 24 May this year after vaccinating residential students and teachers, but the education ministry extended the time of closure due to the rising trend of Covid-19 infections in the country.
The government was supposed to provide vaccines to residential students and teachers of the public universities before 17 May, but it failed to do so. The public universities have already sent lists of their residential students and teachers to the health ministry for Covid-19 vaccination, but none of them has received any doses.
Now the universities say they will not reopen the universities before completing the vaccination process. They have also taken preparations to hold the final examinations online.
Professor Farid Uddin Ahmed, vice-chancellor of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, told The Business Standard the university had submitted the names of the teachers and students a couple of weeks ago, but no students have been vaccinated yet.
"We will not reopen the university before vaccinating the students and teachers. Now we are preparing to start the new semester and take the final examinations online," he said.
Prof ASM Maksud Kamal, pro-vice-chancellor (Academic) of Dhaka University, told TBS that the administration expects to hold examinations in-person from 1 July if the Covid-19 situation improves by then. However, the examinations will be held online in due time if the situation does not improve.
"We will reopen our residential halls after all students are vaccinated," he said.
The education ministry has also said it does not want to resume classes physically before vaccinating students and teachers.
It may also extend the closure of educational institutions again as the National Advisory Committee on Covid-19 has suggested that the government continue the lockdown till 29 May.
Prof Syed Golam Faruk, director general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, told TBS, "I have heard that the lockdown will be extended for one more week. We will not reopen the educational institutions amid the lockdown. But I hope that we will be able to reopen the institutions fully if the virus infection rate remains below 5%."
"We have kept educational institutions and teachers ready to restart classes. But they have been compelled to change the date of the reopening on observing the rising trend of coronavirus infections," he said.
Sources at the education ministry said it had a plan to reopen the educational institutions after providing vaccines to all students and teachers. But the plan cannot be implemented due to a shortage of vaccines in the country.
Mominur Rashid Amin, additional secretary (Secondary and Higher Education division) of the education ministry, told TBS the division had asked the authorities concerned to collect the names of students aged above 18.
"Actually the reopening of educational institutions depends on an executive decision now. We did not get any directive to reopen the institutions," he said.
There are 1.30 lakh residential students in 220 halls, 15,000 teachers and 25,000 employees in 46 public universities across the country. Additionally, there are 106 private universities. Around 40 lakh students are in the higher education level and around 3.5 crore students are in the primary and secondary level institutions around the country.
Education ministry's plan on reopening
The education ministry has extended the time of the closure of the educational institutions several times following the suggestions of the National Advisory Committee on Covid-19.
The ministry has already asked the schools and colleges to follow the health safety guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation and the health ministry.
In line with the previous decision, students of classes 10 and 12 will be allowed in schools six days a week. Students of other classes will come to school one day a week.
Only one student will sit on a bench and a maximum of 15 students will be able to attend a class together.
JSC, JDC exams also uncertain
The education ministry is contemplating not holding the Junior School Certificate (JSC) and Junior Dakhil Certificate (JDC) examinations this year.
Requesting anonymity, a ministry official said the ministry will try to hold short tests in classrooms. All JSC and JDC students will be promoted automatically like they were promoted last year, he added.
No auto promotion for HSC, SSC examinees this year
The education ministry is firm in its decision about holding the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) exams this year.
Amid concerns over the coronavirus, the education ministry last year promoted students to the next level without holding major public examinations, but it does not want to repeat that procedure again.
Professor Nehal Ahmed, chairman of the Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board, Dhaka, told TBS, "We have no other option but to hold the SSC and HSC exams this year."
Education experts for long-term plan
Dr Manzoor Ahmed, professor emeritus at Brac University, told TBS, "The government must formulate a two-year or three-year plan for learning recovery that will include basic topics from Bangla and mathematics for primary students, and Bangla, mathematics, English and science for secondary level students."
"The government must also make plans to provide funds to all the schools to recover the learning losses and to check dropouts," Dr Manzoor Ahmed added.
It may be recalled that on 16 March last year, the government decided to keep all educational institutions and coaching centres shut from 18 to 31 March for the sake of students' safety in light of the situation arising from the coronavirus outbreak. It then extended the closure period on a number of occasions.
The government did not hold Primary School Certificate (PSC), Junior School Certificate (JSC), and their equivalent exams last year due to the pandemic.
PSC and JSC examinees got auto-promotion, while HSC students were assessed on the basis of their JSC and SSC results. All students from primary to secondary level were also promoted automatically.