August 18, 2023
DHAKA – With a forlorn expression on his face, 12-year-old Faisal was holding his books as he returned to classes after two weeks of school closure due to flood, only to find none of his friends there.
“All of my books got drenched in flood waters and took five days to dry. My friends have not returned to school yet and some of them even had to shift to their relatives’ houses,” he said yesterday.
Floods for seven days following persistent rains compelled the schools in Satkania upazila of Chattogram to remain closed for two weeks.
Faisal studies in seventh grade at Uttar Satkania Ali Ahmad Pranhari High School, which reopened on August 16.
On the second day, only 211 students were present out of 1,700 at the school.
Even though flood water levels came down after a couple of days, authorities needed one week to prepare the school compounds so that students could resume classes.
The authorities of the schools are worried that the calamity might have put an end to pursuing education for many students, especially girls.
Most of the students are not in a condition to return to school yet because the flood washed away their books among other belongings, said Farid Ahmed, headteacher of Uttar Satkania Ali Ahmad Pranhari High School.
“I visited the homes of some students and found them busy helping their parents rebuild their houses,” he said.
Some other students were also seen assisting their fathers to remove water from their paddy fields, which normally produces the year’s supply of rice for their families.
When this correspondent visited the school, most of the classrooms were seen empty. Although there are three sections in the seventh grade, classes took place in one classroom due to low attendance.
Meanwhile, the second floor of the school is still being used as a shelter by some locals. They said they are still staying at the school as their primary accommodations are damaged and repairs have not been completed yet.
A similar scenario regarding student attendance was seen in other schools in the area including Kariyaish Govt Primary School, Dharmapur Kalagazi Shikdar Govt Primary School and Rasulabad Govt Primary School.
“Out of 149 schools in our upazila, most were severely affected by the flood. After cleaning and repairs, most schools are now resuming academic activities again,” said Golam Mahbub, primary education officer of Satkania upazila.
“Today [Thursday, August 17] I visited 25 schools and found very low attendance of students. Teachers of these schools assured me that the attendance would increase within a week,” he also said.
“After two weeks of closure, we have reopened about 95 percent of schools in the upazila from Wednesday. The remaining schools, where the extent of damage is higher, will reopen within this week,” said Satkania Secondary Education Officer Salim Uddin.
According to Chattogram District Administration, at least 577 educational institutions were affected by the recent seven-day flood, which started on August 4, in three districts of Chattogram division.