Saturday, January 16, 2021 | ePaper

Learning Catastrophe How It Can Be Overcome For Children

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M A Hossain :
The educational institutions have been closed from March'20 in Bangladesh and that is threatening the futures of millions of students. Ayaana a 2nd grader told her mother" Oh, Mom! Tell me anything to do except study." Her mother being a physician stood still and dumbfounded and recapped her coaxing and cajoling for daughter's nine months of confined life and started thinking, what more could she expect in this situation? After recovery from her shock, distraught mother made an artificial high-pitched command to go to study, but internally she knew that she was not hitting the nail on the head. I have written an article" Traumatized next generation must now be given priority" in this daily on 23 June 20 at the rudimentary phase of coronavirus pandemic. On this article, I showed how our children's lives changed and threatened their learning- especially the most marginalized are paying the heaviest price. Now the longer children are out of school the less likely they are to ever return to the learning process (both physically or psychologically).
Education experts warned of severe consequences for students missing out on critical in-person instruction. Researchers projected significantly learning losses across the countries that have closed schools, with even worse consequences expected for children in countries with already low learning outcome and less resilience to shocks. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommended school leadership to strive to have the U.S. students" physically present in school." I also have gone through the procedure around the world that how various countries have reopened their schools with adequate safety precautions. China, USA, Europe, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and many nations have prioritized reopening of schools temporarily in response to the Covid-19 transmission. Researchers have shown that periodical school attendance can heal our child's life from abuse, neglect, dysfunctional parenting, trauma and anxiety without support for coronavirus pandemic. Now, the question is - is it possible to reopen educational institutions in Bangladesh, a country from the 3rd world? The answer is "Yes."
First, the Bangladesh government must declare an education emergency. Second, the government should deploy Bangladesh Armed Forces in aid to the prime-minister office and education ministry. Bangladesh Army has a successful previous record of disaster management during natural calamities or preparing a meticulous survey list (voter list). So, this time a survey team consists of local public administration, Army and the education department will survey the every education institution nationwide and prepare a list of 3 categories. (1) In-person instruction (IPI) (2) Periodical in-person instruction (PIPI) (3) Remote instruction (RMTI). The criteria of those categories will depend on space availability of the institution, spread of the virus on that area, the economical standard of that locality. Local administration needs empowerment to decide and declares the state of the category of each institution.
IPI-If the particular educational institution is in an area where the COVID-19 infection is not reported and the institution has enough place for maintaining COVID-19 protocol then students can come to school regularly with strict health safety measures. If any institution comes under the area of sharp increasing of virus spread or space is very limited than that institution will be labelled as PIPI. Students will attend the classroom periodically maintaining COVID-19 protocol. RMTI- when any education Institution comes under the deadly widespread area then schools will be closed but RMTI will continue through the Internet, radio, TV. All these 3 categories will be temporarily stated and local administration will review the state of the category very particularly as soon as it warrants the change. Institution chief will keep liaison every day to the local education department as a part of local administration. Thana Education Officer and the governing body of that institution will act as a pivotal role in the smooth function of this committee.
Now, there are certain points which need to be ensured for IPI and PIPI category. Wearing a mask must be mandatory for all members of the institution including the attendants of the students. Researchers have shown that wearing a mask can significantly decrease the chance of infection. From the entry gates, body temperature will be checked and will be allowed to get inside the school after handwashing. Classrooms must be rearranged with the facility of social distancing if it's needed with decreasing capacity. Odd/even roll number or section/shift wise presence of the class can be one option to decrease the capacity. The local executive committee should prioritize the vulnerable students, schools which are most marginalized of remote localities and linguistic minorities, and those with disabilities. If the space inside the class is not sufficient then the presence of the students may rearrange. A single day for one or two classes only, and classes can be conducted with small group-wise simultaneously. Holding classes at outdoor can be done if the school premises permits.
Now, the challenges for this management are fund crisis, lack of awareness, equipment handling, in access to information and Internet or devices. For the fund crisis, the government can allocate extra funds and declare a remission of taxes if invested in an emergency fund for education or facilitate to make white of black money with a 15% penalty. Above all, a magic trick will be if our Honorable prime minister urges a voluntary donation in the emergency fund towards her party men and solvent countrymen with the photographic ceremony. Mostly, the fund will be spent on health services, food and remote instruction facilities for the students and related members. The flow of information and awareness building could be solved by the Information Wing of district administration.
Primary and secondary level needs more attention and precautions where the tertiary level would be a bit easy task. The ultimate mission of the government machinery will be put our children into the learning process with befitting category shifting. This article is a tip of the vast elaboration but put for thought to rescue the futures of millions of our children from learning catastrophe.

(Mr. Hossain, a political and defence analyst, writes on diversified topics in Bangladeshi and foreign newspapers. Email: writetomahossain@gmail.com)

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