The coronavirus has transmitted to 208 countries in the world including Bangladesh. To prevent the virus spreading, physicians including World Health Organisations (WHO) have advised all to stay at home, because no medicine or vaccine has been developed yet. Therefore, Bangladesh education ministry declared all educational institutions to remain closed due to coronavirus outbreak on March 18, 2020. But some teachers and parents are worried about their children’s educational future. They are eager to get rid of this situation by taking online classes by using software Zoom cloud meetings, Microsoft office 365, or Google Classroom, etc.
Seeing their interest, the Ministry of Education of Bangladesh directed all government and semi – government college principals to arrange online classes. Many educationists including guardians have raised questions against the ministry’s decision. They want to know - is it really necessary to take classes online in the current pandemic situation? Is education more valuable than life?Before being directed by education ministry, a few private universities started taking online classes, because they felt that wasting time meant losing their profits. They think, if they waste three or four months then they’ll fail to collect the semester fees, tuition fees and other fees from the students. But they will have to pay the rent, salary of teachers, officers and other employees. But the university authorities are not willing to pay teacher-staff’s salary from their own coffers.
Often we heard news of certificate trade and how several private universities has been established only for the purpose of business or making profit. By the decision of taking online classes, exams and admission, the above allegation seems to be proven true. However, after consideration of the matter the University Grants Commission (UGC) issued a notification for the closure of online classes.
I don’t understand why the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Secondary issued a notification directing schools to carry out online activities. Conscious persons raised the question against the notification of education ministry, expressing concern about its implementation, especially in rural areas.
Actually, in the context of Bangladesh, it is impossible to take live online classes because teachers or students are not habituated to it. Not only that, most of the students do not even have a Smartphone, how will they attend such classes? Maximum teachers do not have personal computers. The government has not given laptops or desktops for teachers and students like United States or other developed countries. Most teachers and students cannot afford to buy PCs individually.
The important thing is the whole country is now under lockdown and people are suffering. Some are contracting the virus while others are dying from it. This pandemic is harming people mentally and economically. These circumstances are not suitable for studying. Forcing students to do online classes in such a horrible situation is nothing but a joke.
The financial condition of many students in rural areas are very critical. There are many students who are unable to afford fare to go to college or buy books. I have seen many students cry for not being able to manage the money to submit exam forms. If this is the situation of majority students then how can they participate in this journey? Or will the class be run by only those students who can afford it, absenting the poor?In the past few days, media telecast the news of relief distribution. By this scenario it is clear that most people are greatly affected by the coronavirus. It is clear that many spend the day starving. In that context, it is inhumane to ask their family to purchase internet packages once every three days. Due to starvation, forcing students to buy internet packages for online classes is ridiculous.
It is not only in Bangladesh that the educational institutions are closed due to the Corona epidemic. According to UNESCO educational institutions in at least 163 countries of the world are closed. But those countries have not made any obligation on students to take such classes. However, some may do so by personal initiative and may be praised for it, but such instruction is very inefficient without providing such environment or equipment in Bangladesh.
Even Korea, a most technologically advanced country having launched first 5G, has not issued such notification. Similarly other developed countries such as - United States, Britain, Spain, Greece, Italy, Japan, Germany and China, has not issued such notifications either, rather some teachers have conducted their activities online on their own initiatives.
Many students and their guardians of Bangladesh are worried about their future due to educational institutions remaining closed in peak time. But they do not see the world education system. Educational institutions all over the world including developed countries like United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, China, Korea, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Finland, Switzerland and Russia have 2.5-3 months summer vacation. But this holiday in Bangladesh is only 2 weeks!
Also these countries have spring, autumn and winter holidays from one to 3 weeks but in Bangladesh, there are no such holidays except winter! Do you still think that closure of educational institutions due to the pandemic is a great harm for our students?
The education in all the above countries is way ahead of ours. Their economic status and GDP is also higher than us. By adopting this method, they have been able to identify themselves as civilised, educated and developed in the world. But, if our country’s educational institution remain off due to pandemic or disaster, we feel that our studies are being ruined.
However, the method of recording online classes and giving different questions based on that is 100 per cent effective if students can access the online resources. But, we have to remember that we are in a war. Students get news of new infected cases, number of deaths, scarcity of food affecting their psyche and being advised to stay at home at all times is creating mental stress in students. In this situation, forcing them to participate in online live classes will cause even more stress which will be a great loss for future generations.
To deal with any such situations in the future, our teachers and students should be made proficient in this and be provided with efficient equipment. Don’t expect that just by launching a few online platforms and asking the student to learn from them it can be done. Ministry’s responsibilities will not be done just by issuing such notifications as any order from the ministry indicates the ability, competence and benefit to all.
Md. Sharifur Rahman Adil, Lecturer of Philosophy, Feni South-East Degree College