October 20, 2021, 12:49 pm


Staff Correspondent

Published:
2021-08-27 19:37:33 BdST

Experts seek roadmap for reopening of educational institutions


As the Covid infection rate continues to fall, health experts advised the government to immediately take adequate preparations along with a roadmap to reopen the educational institutions gradually.

They think the government should first reopen the universities and then colleges, high schools and primary ones within the next month by bringing teachers and eligible students under the vaccine coverage on a priority basis.

They also called for preparing national Covid prevention and control guidelines based on health sciences to ensure academic activities in the educational institutions with safety even if the virus transmission goes up further.

The government shut the educational institutions on March 17, 2020 after the country had reported its first Covid-19 cases on March 8. Then the closure was extended several times. The latest extension was supposed to continue till August 31.

But the government on Thursday extended the closure of secondary and higher secondary-level educational institutions until September 11.

On Tuesday, Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni said educational institutions in the country will be reopened soon if the coronavirus infection rate continues to decline.

Roadmap

Public health expert MH Chowdhury (Lenin), chairman of the medicine department at the Health and Hope Hospital, said the government needs to prepare a roadmap quickly before reopening the educational institutions based on health sciences.

He said many countries across the world initially witnessed a bit rise in Covid infection after reopening the educational institutions.

“As those countries take proper precautionary measures based on health sciences, they didn’t face any such problem. So, we can use the experiences of those countries and make a roadmap for reopening our educational institutions.”

Of the 218 countries in the world affected by Corona, he said, Bangladesh ranks third in terms of long-closure of educational institutions and it is just because of the lack of proper planning.

“We think the government should take appropriate steps to reopen the educational institutions immediately by reviewing the Covid situation all over the country.”

What should universities do?

Lenin said most university teachers and many students have already received corona vaccine jabs, paving the way for reopening the universities.

“All other university teachers, students and employees can be vaccinated on a priority basis within the next month.”

He said students can be allowed to return to their dormitories by undergoing Covid rapid antigen tests.

For resuming academic activities at the universities, Lenin said, the students of every class can be divided into two sections for maintaining a safe physical distance.

He said both online and offline opportunities should be there for the students to participate in their classes.

“Forty to 50 percent of students can be allowed to join online, and the rest can start regular classes in the classrooms. The students who’ll feel unwell or will fall sick can attend classes virtually.”

At the same time, the expert said, it is important to ensure that every student wears a mask and maintains health hygiene strictly.

Besides, he thinks, every university should have a corona test centre for allowing students with Covid symptoms to go under the test quickly. “There should have isolation centres in every university for keeping the virus-infected students and those have symptoms of the virus.”

After the universities, the government can reopen all the colleges ensuring health safety rules.

Vaccinating all primary& high school teachers

Prof Muzaherul Huq, former adviser, South-East Asia region, said he is in favour of reopening the educational institutions immediately by taking well-thought-out plans like other Covid affected countries in the world.

“I don’t see any problem in continuing the academic activities by ensuring health safety rules."

Dr Muzaher said since there is no opportunity for primary and high school students to be vaccinated now, measures can be taken to reopen those educational institutions by bringing all of their teachers under the vaccination coverage.

He said the coronavirus infection rate among children and adolescents is very low as they have a strong immune system.

“If we divide the classes of the schools into different shifts, arrange safe sitting arrangements maintaining the physical distance and encourage students to wear masks and wash hands, I think the virus infection won’t go up after reopening the schools. The government can also think of giving a short syllabus under the curricula.”

Providing masks to students

Dr Muzaher said the government can give every student at least two high-quality cloth-made masks free of cost. “No one should be allowed to enter the school compounds and university and college campuses without wearing a mask.”

He said the virus infection will not increase after reopening the educational institutions if the students just wear masks and exercise health hygiene rules.”

“If the government has any hesitation about reopening all the schools, it can reopen some schools and colleges on an experimental basis in some areas where the virus infection rate is low,” the expert said.

Reviewing area-based corona infection

Infectious disease expert Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed, a former director (Disease Control) at the DGHS, said the government now needs to review the area-based corona infection and gradually reopen the educational institutions by ensuring the appropriate defense system.

“We need to know where the infection rate is high and where it’s very low as we’ve to take preventive measures considering the infection rates in different areas.”

He said there are many areas, mainly rural ones, where coronary infections rate is very low and there will be no problem if the schools and colleges are reopened there. “But there are some areas where it is still very high and we will have to ensure the health safety rules and preventive measures there very strictly.

“We need to prepare a national infection prevention, control and practice guidelines for opening educational institutions. Every educational institution should have a committee to implement this guideline properly,” he said.

The health and educational experts can jointly prepare the guideline for safely running the educational institutions if even the virus infection grows further.

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