School and college compounds across the country sprang into life once again as students stepped inside classrooms after 543 days of closure caused by the pandemic.
Relief, excitement and joy were writ large on the faces of students who once more resumed an activity that had seemed so natural until Covid-19 turned their worlds upside down on March 17, 2020.
Since then until yesterday, being stuck at home had become the natural order of things for these students.
The school authorities welcomed students while strictly maintaining health safety protocols. However, a number of guardians, especially in the capital, crowded around most school gates, flouting safety guidelines.
Many schools welcomed their students with roses, chocolates, pens and pencils and decorated campuses with festoons, balloons and motifs.
Barring a few exceptions, students wearing masks sanitised their hands at the entrances and maintained three feet distance inside classrooms. Authorities of schools split each class into batches to maintain social distancing inside classrooms.
“I feel like today is the first day at my school,” said Tasnim Mridha, a fifth-grader of University Laboratory School and College, who was delighted to return to school.
Teachers were happy to see their students back inside classrooms.
“We have long been waiting for students [to return]. We had been coming to the school for various reasons [during the closure] but we did not feel good without the hustle and bustle of students,” Mirpur Government Primary School Head Teacher Nasrin Sultana told The Daily Star.
Education Minister Dipu Moni, when visiting Azimpur Government Girls’ School and College in Dhaka, expressed disappointment with many parents not following the Covid-19 health guidelines.
She, however, expressed satisfaction with students following guidelines properly.
“You can drop students off at school and go home if possible. Or, you could wait outside school, maintaining the necessary distance,” she told reporters.
Guardians were seen flouting social distancing guidelines by crowding at most school gates including Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, Monipur High School and College (Shewrapara branch), Shaheed Police Smrity College, Upashahar Government Primary School.
Dipu Moni also warned that if any institution was violating health guidelines, strict action would be taken.
She said other than the threat of coronavirus, contracting dengue is also a concern. She recommend that students should wear full-sleeve clothes and socks while attending classes and asked authorities to be relaxed about school uniforms as many students may have outgrown them.
It is also possible to collect tuition fees in instalments from guardians who are facing financial constraints, she added.
While visiting Azimpur Government Girls’ School and College, the education minister asked authorities to suspend the institution’s principal Hasibur Rahman and Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education official Selina Hossain as a classroom was dirty, said a top education ministry official.
Several The Daily Star correspondents visited at least 17 educational institutions in the capital and scores more in other districts and found that most institutions were clean and followed the Covid-19 health guidelines while holding in-person classes.
SSC candidate Shapna Akter, of Mirpur Government High School, reached the school gate with her bag and waited in a queue to go through temperature check. While in line, she maintained three feet distance from her peers, and once the temperature check was done, sanitised her hands before entering classroom. Once
inside, she sat alone on a bench. Similar scenes were found in other schools.
Yesterday, almost all students were elated to return to schools, Nafisa Tasnim — an SSC candidate of this year of — said they lost motivation towards lessons due to the prolonged closure.
“As we are now returning to school, getting in touch with friends and getting suggestions from teachers, our motivation is also returning,” she said.
In Tangail, Annita Orin, an SSC candidate, said for the sake of education, schools should in no way be closed.
While visiting schools, correspondents of this newspaper found that health guidelines were followed properly at Holy Cross College, Udayan Uchcha Madhyamik Bidyalaya, Mirpur Government High School, Mirpur Girls’ Ideal Laboratory Institute, Willes Little Flower School and College, University Laboratory School and
College, Senpara Government Primary School and others.
The correspondents of different district also reported that almost all schools in their respective areas were following health guidelines.
Abul Hossain, headmaster of MR Foundation School of Kolaroa in Sathkhira, and Parimal Kumar Roy Chowdhury, headmaster of Khulna Government Girls’ High School, said almost all of their students came to school wearing masks and classes took place following health guidelines.
But the scenario at Uposhahor Government Primary School in Mirpur area was a little different. Many students haphazardly ran towards the classroom as soon as the school gate opened. Many were seen without masks.
Head teacher of the school, Md Nasiruddin, said they have distributed masks to all who came to school without masks. “We ensured that all students washed their hands before entering classes,” he said.
In Pabna, several students were came to Alia Madrasa Primary School without masks and school authorities gave them masks, said headmaster Fahmida Begum.
Students of eight institutions damaged due to cyclones Amphan and Yaas, including Koyra Dacope and Paikgacha upazila, attended classes in adjoining schools, Khulna District Primary Education Officer ASM Sirajuddoha said.
The authorities of Udayan Uchcha Madhyamik Bidyalaya, Mirpur Government High School, Mirpur Girls’ Ideal Laboratory Institute, Willes Little Flower School and College and others welcomed their students with roses, chocolates, pens and pencils and decorated their campus with festoons, balloon and motifs.
At Mirpur Government High School, all female teachers were dressed in red and green saris to greet the students, while most of the female teachers of Viqarunnisa were dressed in red.
Sohana Shaon, a teacher of the Mirpur high school, said, “Students are returning to school after so many days and to me, it feels like a festival. So, we decided to dress up for the occasion.”
Students’ attendance at schools were lower than that of pre-Covid times. About 81 percent SSC candidates of 2021 and 70 percent of class-V students attended schools in the morning shift at Mirpur Government High School, while 80 percent HSC, SSC and class-V students attended schools at Mirpur Girls’ Ideal Laboratory
Institute, according to teachers.
In Munshiganj town, around 40 percent SSC examinees of KK Government Institute attended class while in Pabna Alia Madrasa Primary School 50 percent class-V students attended.
Following a significant fall in the Covid-19 daily positivity rate, the government decided to resume in-person classes at schools in phases.
According to the decision, candidates of Higher Secondary Certificate, Secondary School Certificate exams of 2021 and 2022 and this year’s Primary Education Completion Examination (PECE) and its equivalent exams would attend classes every day as soon as reopening of schools and colleges take place.
Students of classes I to IV and VI to IX will have in-person classes once a week. Students of pre-primary sections like play group and nursery will not have to return to classrooms right now.
Educational institutions were closed across the country on March 17 last year to curb the spread of Covid-19. The closure led to cancellation of classes and examinations including last years HSC, JSC and PECE.
Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE) Director (Administration) Professor Shahedul Khabir Chowdhury said last night that about 80 percent students of 15,000 secondary schools attended classes yesterday.
There are about 20,000 secondary schools and colleges under the DSHE.
-With The Daily Star input