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Students begin year amid uncertainty

Mohiuddin Alamgir

Although students have new textbooks in their hands, the beginning of their normal classes remains uncertain because of political unrest, especially frequent blockades and general strikes.
Authorities of most of the schools are yet to begin academic activities and have planned to do so in the next, if there is no violent political programme.
Teachers said that delay in beginning academic activities at schools might prove costly for the students.
Many citizens see no quick end to current political turmoil over the 10th national election that has caused conflict between the ruling Awami League-led alliance and opposition including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led alliance.
The BNP-led alliance has been enforcing frequent blockade of roads, railways and waterways and general strikes since January 1. Although the latest spell of general strike ended on Wednesday, the blockade may continue if the poll was not cancelled, BNP leaders warned.
Amid the blockade the government on January 2 celebrated ‘textbook festival’ distributing textbooks among primary and secondary school students across the country.
Education minister Nurul Islam Nahid said that 30 crore new textbooks reached all the schools and madrassashs for free distribution among 3.7 crore students in pre-primary, primary and secondary schools and madrassahs.
Nahid on Tuesday said that the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami activists torched 531 educational institutions across the country to stop the 10th parliamentary elections held on January 5.
The damaged institutions include 419 primary schools while 82 high schools, 21 madrassahs and nine colleges, where polling stations were set up.
‘Educational activities would not be affected at the damaged institutions as the government would take alternative measures,’ the minister said assuring of supports from the government to the damaged institutions.
Frequent blockades and general strikes have also delayed admission procedure of Class II to Class VIII at 29 government schools in the capital. The admission process in the schools ends today.
Head teachers of many schools feared fresh interruption of normal classes at the beginning of academic year.
They said that first days of an academic year were important as the schools needed to do some administrative jobs other than classes.
Monipur School and College principal Forhad Hossain said, ‘If political instability drags on and programmes like blockade and general strike continue, we will take necessary steps considering the situation.’
Viqarunnisa Noon School and College acting principal Monju Ara Begum said that political programmes created mental pressure on students as well as academic activities were also facing interruption.   
‘We cannot ask students to come to school during hartlal and blockade. No guardians will send their children when there is security concern,’ said Ideal School and College principal Shahan Ara Begum.
Admission tests for different public universities have also been deferred and are yet to be held because of frequent hartals and blockades.
General strike and blockades had disrupted academic activities for 65 days in 2013. All public exams like Higher Secondary Certificate, Secondary School Certificate, Junior School Certificate and Primary Education Completion examinations were disrupted due to blockades and strikes.
Many schools were compelled to cancel their annual examinations for different classes and English-medium schools were forced to stop mid-way through their half-yearly exams and started early winter vacation.

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