COVID-19: growing concern over school reopening
by Sumon Corraya

For the Bangladesh Catholic Education Board, the pandemic danger is still too high. The country has about 332,000 COVID-19 cases with more than 4,600 deaths. Schools will remain closed until 3 October. Many children have no access to e-learning. Some propose that all students get a pass. Some fear that the number of school dropouts will rise because of the coronavirus.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The pandemic danger is too high in the country to be able to reopen the schools. For Jyoti F. Gomes, secretary of the Bangladesh Catholic Education Board (BCEB), “it is too risky for students go back to school at this time.”

Bangladesh has reported about 332,000 cases so far with more than 4,600 deaths, 30 a day, and more than 233,000 recoveries.

The government, which has announced that schools will remain closed at least until 3 October, has not yet decided when they will actually reopen.

To remedy the situation, the authorities have encouraged students to take part in e-learning classes since it imposed a lockdown in March.

However, since most students do not have mobile devices or internet connection, teaching was also offered on national television.

Gomes told AsiaNews that in July he asked all the principals of Catholic schools to be ready to reopen when the government gives the green light.

"To ensure the safety of the students, we invited school administrators to upgrade school buildings, especially washrooms, and set up a system of drinking water where there is none.”

The Catholic Church in Bangladesh runs a university, 16 colleges, a thousand primary and secondary schools as well as 13 vocational training centres across the country. The BCEB comes under the Catholics Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh.

According to the BCEB secretary, the government this year should give everyone a pass to avoid risks with school reopening. In his view, school activities should start again only after the COVID-19 emergency is over.

Save the Children agrees. During an online round table organised by the Prothom Alo newspaper held yesterday, the NGO noted that the health situation in the country is still too dangerous, and that it is necessary to wait before reopening of schools.

According to Prof Mohammad Shahidullah, member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19, school reopening should be planned in detail in order to reduce the risk of contagion.

He also said that he was concerned about the probable increase in school drop-outs, due to the economic hardship in which many families now find themselves.

To overcome the problem, Shahidullah proposes that the government provide economic incentives to students in need, thus favouring their return to school.