Coronavirus: Some guidelines for schools not at all realistic
প্রকাশিত তারিখ : March 14, 2020 | আপডেট সময়: 10:40 AM
Countries around the world are taking various drastic measures to try to stop the rapid spread of the new coronavirus, known as COVID-19.
Bangladesh too has ramped up efforts on several fronts since the country confirmed its first ever coronavirus cases on March 7.
But the steps and guidelines given by the government so far for the educational institutions seem not only to be hilarious but also far from reality.
Let’s start with the latest directive issued by Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE), the organisation that oversees the country’s secondary and higher secondary level education, on holding school assembly.
While avoiding public gatherings has been one of the major preventive measures suggested, the DSHE instructed schools and colleges across the country to hold their daily assemblies inside classrooms until further notice. The students will have to sing the national anthem, among other activities, inside the classrooms, the directive reads.
Does it not sound ridiculous?
Most schools in the country hold their daily assemblies in relatively open spaces, preferably in the playground, on their campuses. But as per the new directive, students will now have to gather inside the classrooms, meaning they will have to be closer to each other, which could expose them to a virus that is transmitted through contact and proximity.
Issuance of such instruction also raises questions about its rationality. It is as if holding assembly on the school ground runs the risk of exposing the students to the virus. As if there will be no risk if assemblies are held inside classrooms.
Except a handful of schools, many educational institutions are struggling to accommodate the increasing number of students due to the shortage of classrooms. We often come across news reports showing how students are being overcrowded inside a classroom, with one describing how 80 students were crammed in one classroom. And this new decision would make things difficult for many schools.
However, there is one praiseworthy aspect of the DSHE directive. It asked to suspend all cultural, sports and other events that lead to public gathering, and reschedule the programmes.
Now, let’s look at DSHE’s previous directive issued on March 10.
The directorate had asked all students of educational institutions at secondary level to thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water.
But this directive appears to be imprudent.
There are more than 26,000 secondary-level schools, colleges and madrasas in the country where some 1.50 crore students are studying. We all know the conditions, more or less, of the schools and colleges of our country.
While it is true that the government is constructing and repairing buildings and classrooms, many schools in the country, especially in rural areas, still do not have proper toilet facilities. If there are toilets, many are not sufficiently clean. Most of the institutions do not have separate hand-washing facilities. And finding soap or handwash liquid there would be a truly rare feat.
Now that the government has come up with the directive, questions should be asked about how many schools would actually be able to provide soap or handwash to students, and for how many days. Do they have sufficient funds, or would they charge students to bear the additional cost of ensuring hygiene?
There are at least a dozen institutions in Dhaka where the number of students are more than 20,000. For such a huge number, providing hand-washing facilities would be an uphill task.
Where many countries around the world have shut down schools, our government still insists that no such situation has arisen yet that schools and colleges need to be closed.
The call for closing down educational institutions also rings louder in our country. And a number of guardians have already stopped sending their children to school. It is obvious that children will mingle at schools.
One father told this correspondent yesterday that, “The government is saying that the situation in our country is not as grave as other countries. But will it be judicious to wait for the situation to turn dire and then take steps.”
Even the parents have argued that the government’s directive to avoid public gathering is in contradiction with its instruction to keep schools open. It is, in fact, impossible for guardians in the capital to send children to school without them mingling with other students and the general public.
Many schools do not have their own transport services for students. The government does not have any specific transport service for schoolgoers either. So, the students need to wade through a maddening morning rush while going to their respective schools, like they always have to.
Besides, many students avail public transport, namely buses and human haulers, to reach their institutions, which puts them at high risk of exposure.
Coronavirus is spreading fast and we don’t want to sound panicked. But, like hundreds of guardians, we urge the government not to downplay the potential impact of the easily transmitted virus and take all-out preparations before the situation turns dire.
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