The Financial Express

School closure: Dissecting reality

| Updated: June 19, 2021 21:58:44

--Representational image --Representational image

When it comes to pandemic-time closure of schools and colleges in Bangladesh, the social class issue comes to the fore. It is seen mainly among the school students. The truth is the class-specific impact of indefinite closures differs from one class to another. With the period of closure extending without break, the chasm between classes becomes sharper. This scenario is a common one in the less developed countries, where the education sector is plagued with social disparity.

Let's turn to Bangladesh. With yet another extension of school closure, this time up to June 30, the teenage students are set to be in for another round of mixed pressures. Children from the underprivileged class have started bracing for yet another round of uncertainties. Those are mostly related to the basic needs of life --- food, housing, parental employment and their in-house curricular activity. The latter is directly involved with their future, especially in villages. In rural areas, a lot of girl children continue to grow up, meaning they are stepping into their teenage stage. Before the enactment of stringent laws banning child marriage, rural parents would become busy making arrangements for marrying their adolescent daughters off. The corona-time school closure is feared to bring that social scourge back. As for boys, they are made to give a hand to their fathers' professions. Those range from agriculture, micro-enterprise, nondescript trading etc. In all these activities, the questions of education and school closure or reopening remaininane.

The urban areas, despite their many work openings, appear with a claustrophobic ambience. Moreover, people in the cities, especially in the bigger ones, are hamstrung with scores of the pandemic-related restrictions. This grim reality squeezes livelihood scopes for the poorer segments. It results in their schoolgoing children becoming street-based vagabonds or compulsive urchins. Unlike their rural counterparts, many of these children, including girls, are eventually found taking to soft drugs like glue-sniffing. The extension of school closures doesn't have much noticeable impact on them. These underprivileged students nowadays are fast becoming nonchalant about the closure or reopening of their schools.

A completely different picture is encountered in the middle-class families. It doesn't require one to be a psycho-analyst to read the minds of these families' schoolgoing teenage children. Almost all of them have access to online classes through smart-phones or laptops or PCs. Still, they cannot feel themselves as being regular students. The critical fact is the students of urban Bangladesh have yet to accept the educational lessons imparted through the virtual medium. It's true that there is no dearth of online-savvy school and college students in the country. Yet most of them can respond to the demands of the age-old traditional lessons more spontaneously by using hard copies than the online medium. The higher authorities and academic experts ought to realise this hard truth. Students in the developed world became friendly with their school and college-stage online studies much before the onslaught of the Covid-19 --- thanks to their technological progresses. Due mainly to this, these students didn't have to go through the struggle of coping with the technological nitty-gritty of the online medium.

Comparing the Bangladesh students with those in the developed world and giving up hope on them for their failure to become friendly with the online mode cannot be viewed as rational. Overenthusiastic health experts and academics appear to be expecting too much from the Bangladeshi students. They demand that the students be online education-friendly. It's true this tall order suits emergencies like a pandemic. But the senior students are averse to online classes, exams and auto-promotions.  A seemingly insurmountable challenge stares the policymakers in the face. It comprises balancing the dreams of the students and parents with effectively reining in the Covid-19 spike.

The need of the hour is adherence to ground reality.

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