The showers over different parts of Dhaka on Thursday night came as welcome relief from the searing heatwave that has been crippling life around the country for a good 4 weeks now. And yet we would be mistaken to think that our troubles with the heat are over, as the Education Ministry announced that all secondary schools, colleges, madrasas, and technical education institutions in several districts across the country including Dhaka, will be closed on Saturday, signalling the authorities expect even more disruption to affect our lives in the days ahead. It's going to be a long, hot summer it seems. Even longer, and hotter than usual.

The issue of heatwaves and school closures has become critical in recent days, especially after the Education Ministry and the High Court got involved in a disagreement on how to handle the issue of school closures. It all started after the end of the extension of Eid and Pahela Baishakh holidays. Schools and colleges were set to resume classes on April 21, but concerns about the extreme temperatures led to a last-minute extension of the vacation till April 27. The Education Ministry, however, reopened all schools and colleges the next day, a Sunday, when the country already broke a 76-year record of heatwave days in a single year.

The reopening of schools ignoring concerns of parents caused an immediate backlash, with reports of students falling ill and even teacher deaths surfacing.

On Monday (Apr. 29), the HC ordered the closure of primary and secondary schools and madrasas till Thursday due to heatwave in the country. All secondary schools, colleges, madrasas and technical educational institutions were ordered to remain closed on Monday following the advice from the Ministry of Health and the Bangladesh Meteorological Department.

Asked about the High Court order that pre-empted the ministry and ordered schools to close last week, the education minister said they were respectful of the court's decision. The court's decision would be followed until an appeal is filed, suggesting they were not completely satisfied. Prior to that, he had expressed his surprise at the court's decision to get involved.

It is true that educational institutions in rural areas suffer more than in cities when they are closed due to natural disasters and other holidays. The move to take decisions on school openings and closings on a district-wise basis from now on is a good one. Educational institutions will not be closed or opened collectively countrywide anymore, the minister has said. He has also said schools may have to run on Fridays in the remainder of the academic year (after the heatwave) to make up for lost time. That is at least better than playing with students' and teachers' lives.

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