The Financial Express

Vaccination, education and government connecting with people  

| Updated: February 15, 2021 21:50:52

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A woman receives the Covid-19 vaccine in Dhaka on February 7. 	—Xinhua Photo A woman receives the Covid-19 vaccine in Dhaka on February 7. —Xinhua Photo

A crisis often brings out the best in people. We have experienced it politically in this land, having been witness to history many times over. We have observed this reality in the past many years, with our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) going up, with our foreign exchange reserves rising to appreciable levels. With all the problems we have grappled with for years and still contend with, these are achievements we as a nation can be proud of.

And then there is that other factor, of governments and administrations mapping out a route to disciplined, uninterrupted progress. The Covid pandemic has shown, here in Bangladesh, that when the administration works well, when all the cogs in its wheels are in place, when all the wheels move in rhythm, things get done. In this past week and more, increasing numbers of citizens have been getting vaccinated in Bangladesh, thereby protecting themselves from a malady that has been laying lives low all over the globe.

On the spot registration, as we understand, has been halted for now. The bigger picture, however, is one of a smooth administering of the vaccine in the nation's capital and elsewhere in the country. That picture is enormously satisfying, for it is a sign of what purposeful leadership can do. The Prime Minister, the Health Minister and all our health professionals in the hospitals have been doing a magnificent job encouraging citizens to get vaccinated and ensuring that vaccines are given to them. Those of our citizens who have been registering online for the vaccines and following it up by getting inoculated against the coronavirus are clearly happy, not just because they have got the vaccines but because the system has been working smoothly.

That is where our happiness springs from. The naysayers and the doomsday prophets who believed that chaos would mar the process of vaccination in Bangladesh have been proved wrong. Given that countries beyond ours are yet struggling to have their vaccination programmes streamlined --- and we have in mind such nations as the United States --- we have done well. The manner in which the Covid vaccine is being administered in Bangladesh is a hint that we can do the same in all the other areas where we need to place focus. A society which ensures that not merely its own people but also foreign diplomats based in the country are inoculated against the virus deserves appreciation. Yes, we appreciate ourselves. Could there be any reason not to do so?

The government's vaccination programme brings an important point to the centre of discussion. It is simple: In societies like ours, the best guarantee of a safe, better and beautiful life comes from government. Social democracy, indeed a welfare state is what only government can deliver, which is when we wonder if it would at all be politically correct to have the country's private hospitals enter this area of Covid vaccination. All manner of private enterprise is driven, obviously, by thoughts of profit. That is what capitalism is all about; and in light of what capitalism or pseudo-capitalism has achieved, or failed to achieve, in Bangladesh, we raise the question: Should the government open the door for private hospitals to come into the Covid vaccination programme?

That government is best which reaches out to people in their extremities of despair. In these pandemic times, the government's provision of vaccines free to citizens is a sign of the enormity of good that our society can expect if the levers of administration, in any field and provided honesty of purpose and efficiency is brought into them, are kept running. Our citizens need to be reassured that these vaccines they have been getting are a guarantee of their welfare in terms of health. They must not begin to feel that people with motives of profit in mind will enter the process and leave it disturbed. Social democracy, indeed socialism in a reinvented form and operated by government is the requirement today. If Cuba can develop an internationally reputed health system through its government, we could give the idea our own input in Bangladesh.

There is one other area where a point needs to be made. The Education Minister has let it be known that educational institutions will not reopen until the safety of students is guaranteed. That is a position we understand and, as citizens, endorse. When we observe some developed nations quite in a state of confusion about the future of education in their circumstances, when they have schools opening and then getting shut and then reopening, the policy in Bangladesh has been consistent. It is just as well. What matters today is that our students, despite all the psychological pressure building up in them owing to the need to stay home, keep in touch with online learning. Teachers and students alike have been putting in their best efforts to ensure that education goes on. At the end of the day, education matters, but so does the health of the young and those who lead them by the hand through the landscape of knowledge.

The vaccination programme must go on without interruption. The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and all health professionals have been doing a marvellous job, a task they must continue to do to the best of their abilities. Through keeping educational institutions, teachers and students safe in these dark, troubled times, the education authorities have called forth our appreciation. And, yes, the authorities need to look to those students whose access to the internet, to computers, has been less than satisfying. It is a blurred picture we have in our rural regions. It calls for corrective measures.

When government works well, when the political and civil administration remains focused on citizens' welfare --- as it has remained focused on ensuring a smooth vaccination process for citizens in Bangladesh --- we know the same can be done elsewhere, in other regions of public interest. Government becomes a thriving affair when it connects, meaningfully, with people.


Syed Badrul Ahsan is a senior journalist and writer.
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