Education Minister’s abrupt announcement about reopening universities and residential halls has apparently come as a surprise and shock to protesting students. Clamour over reopening educational institutions and dormitories has been growing for quite some time now. For the last several days hundreds of students have been protesting at different universities; some of the students have even broken into their dormitories defying closure order.
It is obvious that students have reached the limit of their patience due to academic inactivity for such a long time. Moreover, a sense of normalcy has returned in society as corona fear subsided and vaccination drive is going on in full swing. Nothing is sitting idle now except the education sector.We understand that the government gives the topmost priority to the health and wellbeing of the students. Because of that reason the government, while tentatively opening up this or that sector, did take no risk with the education sector. But now we think time has come to consider whether our excessive concern for students’ health is doing harm or good. Unicef also has said that the benefits of keeping schools open far outweigh the costs of closing them.
Taking the overall situation into account, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also hinted at reopening educational institutions. In fact the Education Minister made the announcement regarding reopening varsities and dormitories following PM’s instruction. But the question is why another three months are required for reopening? Educational institutions in other countries are being reopened with several days’ notice.
We are told that the delayed date has been fixed considering the need for vaccination of teachers, students, officials and others in the education sector, and also holidays of the month of Holy Ramadan and the Eid-ul-Fitr. Meanwhile, DU Vice Chancellor has welcomed the decision and asked the government to ensure that all teachers and students are vaccinated before April 17, because it will take three weeks for the vaccines to become effective. But the students have denounced the decision and are demanding that their varsities be opened on March 1.
We think students have reason to be angry about their continued academic loss. If everything can go on as usual – university authorities holding crowded press conference and teachers and staffers doing other outdoor activities, students protesting on the street and loitering around – then why they must wait until the immune system is developed in their body against Covid-19 to return to classroom? Does education come such a long down the list of priorities?