Facing challenges to reopen safe schooling
Global economy is trying to rebound from the threats of Covid-19. Manufacturing of industries across the globe runs smoothly to meet the demands of the day. People see hopes and aspirations as vaccination program has started amid many countries. The international human serving bodies along with the world leaders are working to ensure vaccines for all countries. But the catastrophe in education is still rampant. It is unprecedented yet to be addressed.
In Bangladesh schools have been closed since March 17of the last year. By the time country's education has gone online. It is the new normal trend of teaching and learning of the day. Studies reveal that online education has not been inclusive as many students are still out of the frame.
A recent survey conducted under Education Watch Study 2020-2021 revealed that at least 69.5 per cent of the primary and secondary-level students could not partake in distance learning for various reasons, including absence of digital devices and internet connections.
The survey also found that over 75 per cent of the primary and secondary-level students prefer going back to schools. It is no denial that learning needs an environment and the institutions provide the requisite environment for students and teachers to accomplish their respective activities. Mental well-being of a learner helps to receive uninterrupted education that is greatly hampered in the time of Covid-19 emergency.
It is almost a year since students and teachers have been away from their institutions due to uncertain pandemic. So they find no alternative to going back to schools. The educationists who opposed school reopening amid the corona crisis now have found the way that time has come to reopen safe schooling as prolonged shutdown will be the cause of huge dropout of the learners.
The government has also started thinking about continuation of classes at schools on a limited scale in February. Education Minister Dipu Moni at a press conference said that they are planning to bring the class-10 and class-12 students back to traditional classes on priority basis. Students of other grades will be given scope to attend class once a week for the first phase. With considering the fact, schools and colleges have been given the notice to run cleaning activities along with ensuring safe and joyful environment for the children.
On top of that, they have been given a number of guide lines including preparing a budget for buying disinfectants, creating a routine for daily cleaning along with ensuring at least three feet of space between seats for students, as well as mandatory use of masks.
The guidelines also suggested that students should be divided into small groups for each class to ensure social distancing and directed to ensure distance learning for those who are unwilling to attend classes physically.
Despite taking all the measures safe schooling is still a challenge ahead. It is obvious that logistic supports in most schools are not well-mentioned. Especially, rural schools are more vulnerable in this concern. We know that at the initial stage of corona crisis the government underwent huge struggles to make people convince to wear mask and ensure social distancing. Village people were found more indifference in this regard despite huge publicity to make people convince.
So it is apparent that how we are spontaneous to move out with implementing strategies for ensuring safety and hygiene. Certainly, things will go tougher unless the case of school reopening is strongly monitored.
Only giving a number of guidelines to ensure safe schooling may be not sufficient as there may have the chance for many schools along with their concerned not to go through strict measures that may be the cause of big sufferings.
On top of that, it is tough for many schools to bear the expenses of purchasing safety equipment for students and teachers. Confining students into a class for long time would be challenging as it takes time to get students accustomed to new normal trend at their institutions.
Experts opine that along with teaching lessons, for the first someweeks students should be given some counselling classes that may help them to start a new as many students have already undergone huge vulnerabilities. Also it is time to shorten the curriculum with necessary revisionin a bid to reduce education gaps caused by the pandemic.
However, to avert catastrophe in education, online education has some importance but to achieve overall goal there is no alternative to reopening safe schooling in the shortest possible time.
Along with this, in order to combat challenges to safe schooling, a strong monitoring team at every thana should be made and we hope that their monitoring would tackle all sorts of irregularities in regard to the suggestive activities by the government for safe schooling.
It is time to create more funds for reopening schools as we know reopening mills and factories was not as challenging as are schools. For the first few weeks of reopening schools will be considered with strict follow- up.
Any violation in regard to ensuring safe schooling has to be handled strictly. It is necessary to train up two teachers of every school to ensure children safety in the time of emergency. For this, the concerned of every district will arrange at least a seven- day training session for the selected teachers.
Undoubtedly, teachers are more responsible to teach students how to practice cleanliness and hygiene and similarly, parents cannot deny their responsibilities to ensure a good environment for their children. Sincere parenting will play a role to make children aware of the new normal context of learning.
Alaul Alam teaches at Prime University