Bangladesh shuts schools again with no let-up in heatwave

By Ruma Paul

DHAKA (Reuters) -Bangladesh again closed all primary schools across the country and educational institutions in almost half of districts including the capital as a severe heatwave saw temperatures climb to 43 degrees Celsius (109 Fahrenheit) on Monday.

Schools across the country that closed last week due to the heatwave reopened on Sunday despite persistent high temperatures across the South Asian nation, which resulted in lower attendance.

Classes of all government primary schools will remain closed till Thursday and educational institutions in 27 districts out of 64, including the capital Dhaka, will remain closed on Tuesday, the education ministry said on Monday.

Education Minister Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury Nowfel said on Sunday that if the temperature in any district exceeds 42 degrees, the educational institutions in those districts will be closed.

Separately, the High Court on Monday ordered countrywide shutdown of primary and secondary schools until Thursday due to extreme heat.

The order came after a lawyer alerted the court about reports of deaths and illnesses, including those of teachers and students, in the past few days.

Scientists have said climate change is contributing to more frequent, severe, and lengthy heatwaves during summer months.

This month, Bangladesh has recorded extreme temperatures every day except April 9 and 10. Authorities have encouraged citizens to stay indoors during the day.

But for those who work outdoors, like rickshaw driver Mohammed Shameem, there is not much respite.

"There are not many people who are coming out which means getting passengers is tough. But we have no option but to come out and work," Shameem said.

Like Shameem, tens of thousands of rickshaw operators in Dhaka are suffering in the scorching sun, waiting for customers while most people choose to stay inside.

"I have never experienced such heat in my life. Yes, summer should be hot, but there would have been gusts of wind and rain. But it's not happening this time. People are suffering a lot," said rickshaw operator Shaheb Ali.

(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Jan Harvey and Tomasz Janowski)