Reopening of schools will be suicidal

Nadeem Qadir

10th May, 2020 10:15:10 printer

Reopening of schools will be suicidal

It is indeed a good decision by a section of the business community to keep the shutters down of their malls or shops until after the Eid al-Fitr fearing it will massively spike the number of COVID-19 cases. Imagine the idea of reopening schools by July! It will be nothing less than a suicidal decision.

Let our policy-makers think every move with a cool head and not heeding to lobbyists, vested groups or psychopaths. As this daily blamed in a report several days ago that a lack of team work among the government ministries is to be blamed for the spike of coronavirus cases in Bangladesh.

Despite the government’s approval to reopen businesses by following some rules, major businesses and malls opted to open after the Eid al-Fitr led by the two giants, Bashundhara City Complex at Dhaka’s Panthopoth and the Jamuna Future Park in Badda area. Hats off to both for their life-saving decision, instead of running after money.

The Directorate General and Health Service has reportedly issued technical guidelines in order to reopen businesses, educational institutions, public transportation, and passenger flight services amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

It is in the air that the idea of reopening schools by July is being pushed by various quarters. It is indeed sad that for these elements money not the lives of our children is more important. It is unacceptable when we find that education for our children is being used as an excuse to reopen all educational institutions.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already made it clear that schools will remain shut at least until September “depending on the situation” and proposed online classes as well as tests. We welcome this decision.

But, what worries us is the fact that the educational institutions, especially private ones, want to reopen their doors due to mainly financial losses by way of monthly tuition fees. Yes, it is true that they are losing money and are finding it difficult to pay the wages of their staffs.

It is only a few months that we are in a lockdown situation and everybody is losing financially in one way or the other. The private schools charge huge sums from each student directly and indirectly. There are many hidden fees and that should be the coffer for them to use in this time of the most serious health crisis in a century.

That coffer should be able to sustain most of the private educational institutions to pay wages and other official costs.

Why put the health and life of our children at risk? The authorities must find out how much the coffer has in each of the educational institutions to ride over the current crisis. If one institution does not have enough, then it can be eligible to get government’s special fund or charge 25 percent of the monthly fees from those who can afford it.

Most people are in financial constraint due to the COVID-19 pandemic and none should be forced under any circumstances or accept what one can afford to give at this point of our life.

The whole world is going through a similar crisis, especially economic one, that has triggred a debate of whether life first or economy first. We feel life comes first, because without hands how will the wheels of economy run.

Let us take for example that Bangladesh has total of 11 educational boards and the Open University, one of the largest mega-universities in the world with more than 500,000 students enrolled and growing. There are private universities and at non-registered institutions too.

This means we have, by official count, at least 1.4 million students across Bangladesh.

If one student, especially in primary or secondary schools, walks into a class room infected  with COVID-19, the scenario of people down with this extremely contagious disease will be a nightmare and our fragile health system will collapse. Young children cannot maintain social distance or even minimum hygiene even with teachers monitoring. One slip, means a disaster.

Thus let us not rush with the lives of our children and reopen all educational institutions. Let them study at home for examinations next year, with many parents are for giving their children a special promotion if fear a year mans so much. Let us give live the priority above education, at least in this case. We should not take decision which has every chance of being a suicidal one.