Bangladesh plans SSC exams in mid-August. Is the flood-ravaged northeast ready for that?

Tarekul Hasan tried his best to save his books when the floodwaters roiled into his home in Sunamganj’s Durgapur like a living nightmare. The shocking development left his preparations for the Secondary School Certificate or SSC exams in tatters in the middle of June.

Kazi Nafia Rahman, Staff Correspondent Staff Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 16 July 2022, 09:53 PM
Updated : 16 July 2022, 09:53 PM

The floodwaters broke through the fences and brought down the tin roofs, inundating his house on Jun 18. They survived 12 days by stacking up things on the bed, but the household materials have mostly washed away.

“My books have washed away. All my notes are ruined. I tried so hard to keep them safe but failed. My future depends on them,” said Tarekul, an SSC candidate from Bishwambharpur Government Model High School.

Last month, the runoff from record rainfall across mountains in India's Meghalaya and Assam came rushing downstream and swept the northeastern districts of Bangladesh.

Millions of people were left stranded as the monsoon flooding left a trail of devastation in its wake. The floodwaters took down communications and electricity grids in the region.

The floods also destroyed the books and notes of Tarekul’s younger sister, a ninth grader.

The family rely on farming and are going through a lot due to the floods. Concentrating on studies in the midst of such hardship has been difficult for Tarekul.

“The teachers said they will get me the books. I’ll be able to take the exams then. But I was noting everything down in my copies. So I may not do too well. But I will try my best,” said Tarekul, a student of the humanities stream.

According to the government, authorities suspended classes in more than 5,000 educational institutions across 18 districts due to the inundation, and also, used the schools and colleges to shelter the flood-hit people.

This derailed the study of as many as 575,000 pupils only at the secondary level. The flood hit the hardest the SSC candidates, who were supposed to sit exams on Jun 19 after a four-month delay due to the pandemic.

The floodwaters wreaking havoc on the northeastern regions forced the government to postpone the exams two days before the tests. Now uncertainty looms over 2.02 million students.

On Sunday, Education Minister Dipu Moni will speak at a press conference, where the exam schedule is likely to be scheduled for mid-August, officials said.

SSC IN AUGUST POSSIBLE?

Teachers and education officials in the flood-hit areas said although the floodwaters had receded, the Eid holidays and the summer vacation hampered their work to estimate the damage.

The readiness of the exam centres and how many books the students need can be assessed once the institutions reopen.

But they are positive that everything will be in order in one month’s preparation.

Sazzadur Rahman Saju, the headmaster of Bishwambharpur Government Model High School, said most of the 268 candidates from his institution lost their books.

“My school is an exam centre. The floodwaters damaged the benches and sewerage. We'll tell the government what we need according to that,” he said.

“We’ll also get to know how many books we need when the school reopens on Jul 20. The students will be able to recover their studies if they get the books. All things considered, it will take about a month to put the centre together and the students to prepare.”

Manoranjan Das, the headmaster of Sharlal High School in Sunamganj’s Shalla, spoke about damage to the floors, tin walls and benches. He was not sure about when the students could return to classes.

He mentioned that the 39 candidates from his school had been in no condition to study over the past month. “We found out they somehow managed to survive. How were they supposed to study? They took shelter wherever they could.”

“We’ve to bring them back to the school and distribute books among those who lost them through a list so that they can do as well as possible in the exams.”

“It’ll be best if the exams are held at the end of August. Beyond that, it will create issues with other tests.”

Shafiqul Islam, the headmaster of Tahirpur’s Badaghat Public High School thinks so.

“The further the tests are delayed, the more it will affect the students’ education. They will get distracted. Those who don’t have books will be able to do well if they get 15-20 days to study with the books.”

Shafiqul mentioned that cleaning is already ongoing at his school to prepare for the Jul 20 reopening.

The Headmaster of Miadhan Mia Girls’ High School at Habiganj’s Ajmiriganj, Tapan Kumar Talukder, said the school was a shelter for the flood-hit people until Jul 12. The classrooms were being cleaned for the school’s opening.

As many as 102 students from the school will sit for the SSC exams this year while the centre will host 654 candidates.

“The students already suffered huge losses. Holding the exams in mid-August [will do]. We’ll be able to fix up the centres.”

Abdul Gaffar, the education officer of Netrokona, said the schools in the district were no longer being used as shelters.

“It will be possible to prepare if the exams are held in August. Because the water receded. We’ve 15-20 days in hand.”

Gaffar said there were no reports of students losing books to the deluge in his district. “So I did not send out a list. But I will take steps if such is the case.”

Rabeya, carrying an oar, is accompanied by her sister Taslima and cousin Marjan on their way to Shiktiar Khola High School from their village Modhupur, which is surrounded by haors. During the monsoon, they need a 5 to 7 minute boat ride from home to reach the Bishwambarpur-Tahirpur highway. Then they walk for half an hour to reach their school. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

Sunamganj District Education Officer Jahangir Alam sent a list of 10,000 books for the candidates. “Some have lost books. These will arrive within a day or two”

Obaidul Haque, an assistant controller of distribution at the National Curriculum and Textbook Board or NCTB, said: “There are some books at the NCTB warehouse. There are some more books in Chattogram, Brahmanbaria and Cumilla. These will be sent for the students.”

Prof AKM Reazul Hasan, a member of NCTB, said the books were due to be delivered by Monday.

Arun Chandra Paul, the examination controller of Secondary and Higher Education Board, Sylhet said the students will receive the books on Jul 20.

EXAMS PLANNED FOR MID-AUGUST

Education Officer Jahangir said some institutions in Sunamganj were still being used as relief camps.

“The exams will be held midway into August and we are preparing according to that. Hopefully everything will be in order by then.

Arun said at least 15-20 days are needed for preparation after announcing the exam schedule. “From what I know, it is highly unlikely that the tests will begin before Aug 15.”

He could not specify how many institutions were still sheltering flood-hit people.

[Writing in English by Syed Mahmud Onindo]

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher