Public uni students in show of strength for reopening halls of residence

Students of different public universities, including Dhaka, Rajshahi, Jahangirnagar, Chattogram, Kushtia’s Islamic University (IU) and Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST), continuing their protests with the demand of reopening dorms, which had been kept shut citing pandemic.

On Monday, a section of Dhaka University (DU) students broke into the Shahidullah Hall.

Around 100 students broke the locks and entered the DU hall around 12pm. The authorities said they are looking into the matter. "We are in a meeting over the issue and looking into the matter," DU Vice Chancellor Aktaruzzaman said.

Seeking anonymity, a protesting student said they have staged the demonstration to give authorities a message that students can get into their hall whenever they want.

However, Hall Provost Prof Syed Humayun Akhter, said: “Students only came to the hall to collect their personal belongings from their rooms, not to start living here. University authorities will take decision on hall opening.”

Notably, in the face of student protests across the country, the government has decided to reopen the residential halls on 17 May and classes will be held at the classrooms from 24 May.

Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni in a virtual briefing on Monday afternoon talked about various issues of higher education amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Before reopening, the teachers, students and employees will be vaccinated," the minister added.

There are 1.30 lakh residential students, 15,000 teachers and 25,000 employees in different public universities.

Students Movement for reopening halls immediately

The demand boiled over on Saturday when students of Jahangirnagar University broke into at least six halls in protest of the closure. They demanded reopening of the residential halls as soon as possible.

On Sunday, the students issued a 24-hour ultimatum for reopening the halls.

The protest was sparked by an attack on the students on Friday by residents of a village adjacent to the campus. Thousands of students were residing at rented hostels near Gerua Bazar.

A notice issued on Sunday night signed by JU's acting registrar read, "The university administration is instructing them to leave the halls by 10:00 am on February 22 on their own initiative."

Otherwise, the university administration will be compelled to take legal action against them, the university authorities warned.

But the students of JU, who are staying at the dormitories defying directives, declined to leave the halls by 10:00am today.

Protesters said they are staying there due to safety issues and will not leave at the threat of legal steps by the authority.

The students also urged the university authorities to ensure the safety of all who reside near Gerua Bazar after the official reopening of halls.

Students at Rajshahi University also protested and issued a 24-hour ultimatum to reopen all dormitories.

In a protest in front of the RU vice chancellor’s residence, they threatened a tougher movement if the halls were not reopened.

RU Proctor Prof Lutfor Rahman said they cannot reopen the campus and halls without a government order.

Rajshahi University (RU) students have issued a warning that they would break down the locks to enter the halls on 1 March if those are not reopened by 28 February.

Students of Kushtia’s Islamic University (IU), too, demonstrated on the campus demanding the reopening of residential halls.

Rejecting assurance from the university’s proctorial body, the students threatened to intensify their protest movement unless the halls were reopened.

IU VC Prof Shaikh Abdus Salam also said reopening the halls was not possible without directives from the government and the UGC.

Students of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) in Sylhet locked the university VC’s residence and stopped traffic movement near the campus, demanding the reopening of residential halls by Tuesday.

Following demonstrations by students on December 23, the academic council of Dhaka University on January 31 urged the authorities to reopen dormitories. The government has yet to take a decision on the matter.

The universities suspended academic activities and vacated halls in March last year amid the outbreak of dreaded Covid-19 in Bangladesh. School and colleges also remained closed from same month. Classes and examinations were taken online during the pandemic.

Students fear that the continuing closure will lead to them to fall further behind in academic activities, as online classes have either failed to engage or been inaccessible for many students.

Several students from outside Dhaka have also been struggling to find adequate accommodations in the city amid the closure of residential halls. UNB has learned that a large portion of public university students are now living in rented houses near their universities. This is more expensive as well as less safe, especially for female students.

Source: United News of Bangladesh