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Covid -19 and education in Bangladesh

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-- A K Mohammed Mahbubul Alam
Covid-19 is, first and foremost, a health crisis all over the world. It’s a new virus and we are learning about how it affects children. We know it is possible for people of any age to be infected with the virus, but so far there have been relatively few cases of covid-19 reported among children. The virus can be fatal in cases, so far mainly among older people with pre- existing medical conditions. We need to understand basic information about corona virus disease, including its symptoms, complications, how it transmitted, how to prevent transmission. We need to be informed about COVID-19 through reputable sources such as UNICEF, WHO and national health ministry advisories. No doubt, it is needed to be aware of fake information or myths that may circulate by word-of-mouth or online.
Global shutdown of educational institutions causes a major interruption in student’s learning. In this context, it is burning issue how students can be safe from the spread of this virus. Covid-19 pandemic made a huge bearing on education systems across the globe. Worldwide schools, colleges, and universities have been closed to prevent the transmission of the virus since avoiding community gathering and the maintenance of social-distance is crucial to prevent the spread of the disease. In Bangladesh, educational institutions have been closed since 17March 2020.
Hence, at least 35, 78,384 pre-primaries, 3, 82, 54,584 primary and 34, 16,679 junior secondary school students are currently out of school because of the novel corona virus. The nationwide closure of educational institutions has drastically affected all categories of students. According to a UNICEF monitoring report, 186 countries are currently implementing nationwide closures and eight are implementing local closures, impacting about 98.5 percent of the world's student population. According to Bangladesh Development Research Center (BDRC), there are 51.3 million children (ages 0-14 years) living in Bangladesh, of whom 24.9 million are girls and 26.4 million are boys. Fifteen million children live in city slums in Bangladesh, while on average 500,000 to 2 million children sleep on streets in the country.
Formal education most often takes place through schooling and there are three phases of child education in Bangladesh namely pre-primary, primary and junior school. There are also a large number of colleges and universities in the country. There is no more face to face formal classroom education because the educational institutions have been closed at this pandemic. The usual face to face class has been replaced by online classes so that students can continue their studies. In many countries, the educational institutions are taking the class through TV channels, Google classroom and many other platforms. Bangladesh Television is broadcasting lessons for primary and secondary school students. The lessons or lectures have been prepared by the teachers or professors of the respective schools or colleges or universities, but it is not the same for all educational institutions.
However, online education is still out of reality for various challenges in relation to resources insufficiency and lack of readiness. In the context of current pandemic, education system is now disabled without internet connection. Hence for running the education system amidst this extraordinary situation, internet access knows no bounds. Now the question arises on the accessibility of the internet in every single community, by every single individual of the country. For facilitating required online classes rural coverage of internet should be available and low cost of internet should be ensured.
(Writer is a Trustee, Ishakha International University and Assistant Professor, W K C).