All educational institutions in the country have been closed for a year and two months to protect students from the corona epidemic. Like all other teachers, I have been deprived of student companionship for a long time. At the beginning of the infection, it seemed that in a month, two months, in three or four months, everything would be normal. But alas, I could not have imagined that this holiday would be so long, nor could the students. So when they left Absik Hall, they could not go home with enough books or necessary materials. Deprived of regular meetings and courtesy exchanges with students in the classrooms, corridors or in the vicinity of the faculty building premises, what a lonely person he has been for a long time! What an uncomfortable distance between the student-teacher relationship has come closer! So far I have forgotten the names of some of the students in the classes in which there is no teaching course! Their faces are lost in the abyss of oblivion! To a teacher, this is a kind of suicide! Show those with whom you see ‘virtual’ in the online class as if they are very dirty! The impression of corona panic became clear in our faces!
It is not possible to make up for this loss in the field of education in the last one year. Various classes from pre-primary to university have been running online classes since July-August last year. From face-to-face teaching to online teaching, the inertia of first-hand habits engulfed us. Although one-year practice has brought comfort to many, the reality is that online teaching is not as effective as the face-to-face teaching system. In this way, what is called ‘stumbling block’ may be possible to continue – in order to get 100% results, more long-term practice is required, and uninterrupted strong internet system is also required. This applies not only to teachers, but also to students. Even in developed countries, online education is not 100% successful. The government and the concerned quarters are thinking of bringing the students back to face-to-face teaching with priority on health protection. This news has given hope to the students as well as encouraged the teachers.
It is heard that the students of the universities will be brought under the vaccine as a priority. This is a very positive initiative. If the vaccine could be used professionally instead of age-based ‘target people’ from the outset, good results could be obtained. However, in the end we are somewhat reassured by the attention of the concerned quarters in determining the occupational population. Now we expect to see successful implementation of vaccine delivery among the professional population. I have already heard that the Oxford AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine, imported from India, will be administered to ‘frontline fighters’ such as healthcare personnel, law enforcement personnel and the media as a matter of priority. But it is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. Education Minister Dr. Dipu Moni has recently announced that the residential halls of the universities will be reopened after the completion of vaccination. In other words, the students of the universities will get priority in getting the vaccine. Students are now ‘Target People’. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also agreed to the decision of the Education Ministry, the Education Minister said. Everyone hopes that the stagnation in the education sector due to the closure of educational institutions for a long time will be resolved with the successful implementation of this initiative.
Earlier, when many people were discouraged about vaccines imported from India, targeting students could have been reassuring by applying it among teachers, students and staff of the institution. Because according to the UGC, the number of students in public universities across the country is three and a half lakh. Of these, the number of students connected to 120 residential halls of different universities is 1 lakh 30 thousand. Among the residential students of the universities, 91,000 students have already submitted their national identity cards to the UGC through their respective institutions. We have learned from the media that this list of students has been received by the Ministry of Education through UGC. In addition, the information of teachers, officers and employees was also found to be around 1 lakh 3 thousand. Many of them have also received second dose vaccinations. So there is no need for too many ticks to bring the students back to the residential halls through vaccination. The process of applying the first 5 lakh vaccines from China to healthcare students has started. If it is possible to allocate 6 lakh vaccines for the second batch of gifts for the students of public universities, it will be a step forward to open the educational institutions.
While it is not possible to allocate gift vaccines to students, at least in the next two to three months, the government will have to be proactive in trying to speed up the education system by opening educational institutions for residential and non-residential students. It will take a long time for us to make up for the loss of education in the last fourteen months. It will not be possible to make up for the loss even if it takes time. Because it is not possible to bring back the time that has passed from our lives.
We know that the Ministry of Education and UGC have completed most of the data collection for students of universities. Only students who have not yet registered for National Identity Card are excluded from this statistic. Hopefully, they will also find alternative ways to ensure vaccines for students who have dropped out manually. These are the contexts of the universities where the number of residential halls is more, i.e. where the number of residential students is more. We also learned that the Ministry of Education has some kind of thinking and plan as to whether some university students who have no residential hall management complications or have only one or two residential halls can be reopened before taking the vaccine. In addition, most teachers in their forties have already completed the first and second doses of the vaccine. In this context, the Minister of Education said, ‘Almost all of the teachers above the age of forty have been vaccinated. Those who are still excluded will also be able to pick up quickly. That action is being taken. There was a crisis of getting vaccinated. Now that the vaccine has been received, the vaccination of residential students will be confirmed on a priority basis. The Education Minister needs to implement this promise quickly. Because there is also a kind of malpractice in the opening of educational institutions.
Most of the industrial establishments, factories, government and non-government offices are functioning on a limited scale. The government has repeatedly adopted a variety of strategies and plans to prevent and limit the spread of contagious infections. There is frustration among the health experts as the common people have not complied with it. In the last fourteen months, we have clearly realized the racial indifference we have in complying with the rules and regulations. I have seen this tendency among different professional groups not only as apathy, but also as a protest. These professionals did not hesitate to show thumbs up to the various strategies of the government to avoid public rallies or public gatherings in the name of lockdown, severe lockdown etc. They have been seen to be rather vocal in announcing the program of the movement. A post-mortem of such movements will show that the activities of different business groups are more behind all of them. Whether he is a garment trader, a small trader, a shipping trader or a transport trader, all of them are ignoring the government regulations made and notified to prevent corona infection. All their activities and movements were strongly against the notification issued by the government regarding Corona. Speaking of life and livelihood, they have made their position clear by demanding to keep the wheel of the economy moving against health.
The students have given their full support to all the decisions and notifications of the government during this disaster of Corona epidemic. Such instances are rare in the history of Bangladesh. There is no positive event in the history of Bangladesh where students did not participate. During the first wave of the Corona epidemic in Bangladesh, when the general public was in a state of shock, many students rushed forward with food aid to the extremely poor people trapped in the lockdown, including Corona’s corpse. That is why the students are the first to jump into the disaster – this is our national history. Despite hundreds of youthful outbursts, the students have identified themselves as prudent citizens. Therefore, in order to compensate them for their losses due to education, the state should stand by the side of the students with priority vaccines, normalize the educational activities by opening educational institutions.
Ahmed Aminul Islam: Professor, Jahangirnagar University.
Source: Bhorer Kagoj by www.bhorerkagoj.com.
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