by Nadeem Qadir in northern Bangladesh,
Should one be scared or celebrate the scene in northern parts of Bangladesh to see that roughly 99 percent of the people are not wearing any masks, gave up social distancing and hand sanitisation is a joke.
But they are worried about their young with educational institutions shut. “An idle mind is a devil’s workshop” is becoming a reality with petty crimes and love affairs to pass time have become common.
The incidents of rape by the young too can be linked to this unusual time the country is passing due to the deadly COVID-19.
Going around wearing a mask and armed with a bottle of hand sanitizer I was a fish out of water as local residents either thought I am insane or a coward. But I must admit as far as COVID-19 is concerned I am a coward and continued to look like an alien!
Shops and daily bazar markets here are all open doing regular business. “Business is picking up and with Durga Pooja around festival customers is increasing,” said one businessman in Gaibandha. It was echoed in Bogura and Rangpur districts.
Artisans are busy making idols for the Puja, the greatest Hindu festival of this Muslim-majority country.
Schools are shut, but in many villages students are going to coaching classes or to their personal tutor to keep the flow of education going.
Most government offices are however maintaining COVID-19 protection measures with offices of Divisional Commissioners and police chiefs are set up with chairs to ensure social distance. Wearing a mask is a must to enter these offices.
Life in Dhaka or other major cities appear to bouncing back to life and children too are going for shopping or to playgrounds which are gradually opening.
Sujon Mia, a villager, asked me why was I wearing a mask and I explained that I was not as young as him with the risk of getting infected with COVID-19.
“There is no corona(virus) here and people had fever with cough which was nothing but heat-linked influenza. No corona,” he added.
The villagers felt that schools, colleges and universities must be reopened as idle time is spoiling young people. Many were involved in petty crimes just for “fun” and getting involved love affairs to the great worry of their parents.
I explained that the government wanted to ensure safety of the young and thus taking time to be sure when will be the best time to reopen the educational institutions.
I totally agree with the villagers that the educational institutions needs to be re-opened as soon as possible as online education is not popular or most do not have internet connections.
Since there is no sign of COVID-19 in the most of the villages, educational institutions may be opened with some health guidelines.
Meanwhile, I think Asif Saleh, the Executive Director of the world’s largest NGO, Bangladesh Rural Advancement Comity (BRAC), has pointed out in a Facebook status the long shutdown of educational institutions has had very negative effect on the young people.
He pointed out dropouts might increase, number of child marriages in villages across the country is on the rise again, frustration, crime and drug addiction are increasingly gripping young people in urban areas and loss of jobs for students who support their own education by tutoring putting their lives in jeopardy..
Most importantly he pointed out that since the cinema halls are scheduled to reopen from October 16. In this situation, it is urgent that schools should start reopening gradually, making sure that proper hygiene measures are maintained. Rural schools should be reopened first and the rest should gradually follow.
I think the reasons he has put up for the re-opening of schools is practical and those in the countryside should be reopened as I observed also.
The government’s right steps to faceoff coronavirus and “God’s mercy,” as per the villagers, have brought down new COVID-19 cases and if all other sectors, including passenger bus services and tourism sector.
So, where is COVID-19 in Bangladesh is a big question now among those living outside the major cities of the country? Thank God for the easing of the situation and we can pray Bangladesh will be spared from the second wave in the coming winter season.