Mostly homebound for one and a half years, the students spent days gearing up for the restart, readying books, uniforms, and stationary.
A student of Class Five at Monipur High School and College in Dhaka, Tayeba Jahan has outgrown her uniform and shoes.
“I’ve prepared new dress and bought new shoes and bag for school. It feels great that the school is reopening.”
The government recently announced the restart, and finalised the plan, according to which Class Five, SSC and HSC students will be back to regular classes while the others will get in-person classes once a week.
As students are returning to classrooms, the government is pressing ahead with its plans to hold the SSC examinations in November, followed by the HSC tests a month later.
The government also chalked up plans to hold the final exams of Class V, or Primary Education Completion exams, the JSC and JDC tests for the eighth graders and annual exams of the primary and secondary levels.
Many parents feel relieved after the government decided to reopen the schools and colleges as many students did not have access to online classes due to a lack of a device or connection. Remote learning has other challenges as well, such as a lack of monitoring by the teachers and the concentration of students.
But not all are happy. Many are concerned about COVID-19 as the disease has continued to claim lives.
“Homebound children will have a sense of liberation. It’ll be refreshing for them to meet their classmates and teachers, but it’s very much necessary to follow the health rules. The schools must be attentive to the health rules,” said Hosne Ara, a parent of a student of Viqarunnisa Noon School and College.
The government is also emphasising the health protocols in holding in-person classes. It has sent a 19-point instruction to the institutions to ensure physical distancing along with masking.
It has asked the institutions to hold two in-person classes a day.
The institutions have been asked to make the routines in such a way that the students of different classes can enter and leave at different times.
The routines need to allow the students to follow health rules without crowding.
Daily assembly will be closed for now and the institutions will have to send information to the directorate following a checklist.
The schools and colleges will have to keep one room ready for isolation of any student who would fall sick.
Students must be seated three feet apart and wash their hands with soap and water or sanitiser before entering the institutions. The school authorities will use handheld thermometer to check their temperature before allowing them in.
Many schools in Dhaka have taken steps following the instructions, but no effort was visible in many others.
Nalanda school in the capital has asked the parents not to send bags with the children. The students of the institution will have to wear a new mask while entering the building.
“We’ve completed the preparations. Now we are waiting for the students,” said Kamal Khoshnabish, principal of Mirpur Bangla High School and College. “We will hold classes by following the health rules. I hope the students will get familiar with the new rules.”
Abu Sayeed Bhuiyan, the headmaster of Government Laboratory High School, said they will also keep online classes going along with in-person learning as per the government orders.
“We will pay attention to ensure no student faces risks. We’ve prepared the institution following the government’s instructions.” He believes the school will not face a problem in complying with the health rules in holding in-person classes in phases.
“All preparations have been completed. The students are happy about returning. We are also eagerly waiting to get them back in the classrooms,” said Ayesha Khatun, principal of Chattogram Government Muslim High School and College.
“We follow all the instructions for the preparation. It took time for the cleaning. I hope we will be able to begin normal learning activities.”
Education Minister Dipu Moni said no one will be allowed to enter school premises without masks. She also advised against letting anyone sick inside classrooms.
“Monitoring on the schools will be strengthened, and if we see a surge in infections, the educational institutions will be closed again,” she warned.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque on Friday said the ministry would recommend another phase of school closures to protect students in the event of a spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
The fate of in-person learning will depend on how the coronavirus pandemic pans out, he warned.