Ensuring quality time for students during the period of a pandemic is important so that they do not feel helpless, says educationist Helal Uddin Ahmed
Third grader Razeen Saifan is not enjoying his stay at home.
A tedious daily routine of watching television, playing games on the mobile phone, drawing or chatting with his parents can no longer keep his interest peaked.
Over a week has passed since his school was closed due to the novel coronavirus. A student of Green Herald School and College in the capital, young Saifan now misses his school, friends and all the uproar on the school premises.
Saifan is now bored of his dreary life as the child does not know what he should do or how to utilise his free time during the pandemic.
Most of the 4 crore primary and secondary level students in Bangladesh – now at home as their institutions were closed on March 16 – have been going through a period of nervousness. Educational institutions across the country will remain shut till March 31, as per the government order.
The education ministry did not issue any specific guidelines about how this large number of students can be kept mentally fresh during this period so that their learning process is not hindered.
Very few guardians really know about the novel coronavirus and its impact. Only a handful of teachers are aware about what students should do during their stay at home.
Saifan is lucky as his parents are well educated and know the guidelines on coronavirus issued by the World Health Organization and Unicef. As a result, their son, claimed the parents, is unhappy but has no chance to break down mentally.
Mobaraque Hossain, Saifan's father, said the school authorities did not inquire about any of the students since the closing. They did not even provide any guidelines for the children that could help them spend their times cheerfully.
"I am trying to keep my son lively always. But he misses his school and his peers. As he cannot go outside, it is painful for him. But it could be addressed if the government came up with a plan," he said.
Saifan's father claimed that although they give time to their son, many other parents in urban areas – who are jobholders – are hardly able to make time for their children.
Sumaiya Sumi, a resident of Uttara, said she and her husband cannot give their son much time as both are service-holders.
"My son passes his time playing games on the mobile phone. He is now addicted to the smartphone and it may intensify during this crisis period."
She also felt the necessity for the school's supervision or specific guidelines for students at home.
When the institutions were closed, the relevant ministries did not provide any cautionary leaflet or guideline to students so that they could utilise their time at home. Besides, they also did not advise the teachers to work for the mental support of students.
The Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education issued a notice on its website, asking the teachers and students to remain alert against the coronavirus. They just explained the virus but did not issue any specific advice about the dos and don'ts for the students at home.
Selim Hossain, a parent from Bagerhat, told The Business Standard over the phone that his daughter was in fear after hearing about the coronavirus.
"I am a businessman. My wife and I are not well educated. I do not know how we should help our daughter recover from fear and make her psychologically sound," he said.
When asked, Professor Syed Md Golam Faruque, director general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, said they have realised the issue and are trying to air recorded classes on a state-run television channel to keep students engaged in learning.
"We are also going to issue an advice for students so that they do not feel bored or scared at home," he said.
Helal Uddin Ahmed, associate professor of the Child Adolescent and Family Psychiatry at National Institute of Mental Health, Bangladesh, said it is important during the period of a pandemic to ensure quality time for students so that they do not feel helpless.
"The children should be made mentally fit enough to face the pandemic. They need to learn about the crisis based on their age. But unfortunately, Bangladeshi children are deprived of it. The government's initiative is also not organised," he added.