–Shafqat says govt has decided to reopen educational institutions in phases, and strict action will be taken against those violating SOPs
–Faisal says decision taken after critically reviewing world practices and current Covid-19 situation in the country
LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Monday announced to reopen educational institutions across the country in phases starting September 15, nearly six months after the coronavirus crisis brought the country to a standstill.
Addressing a press conference after a meeting of the inter-provincial education ministers’ conference (IPEMC), Federal Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood said that the classes of grade-9 and above including the colleges and universities will be reopened from the September 15, adding that there are seven million students in this category.
The minister said that the classes for grade-6 to 7 will be reopened from September 23 after reviewing the Covid-19 situation, and the total strength of students in this slot is 6.4 million. He added that if the situation remains well under control, the primary level schools will also be reopened from the 30th of this month.
Shafqat said that the decision regarding reopening of educational institutions has been taken after detailed consultations with all the stakeholders including the provincial education ministers, the administration of schools, experts and think tanks. He said that the decisions will be equally applicable on vocational training institutes and seminaries.
He also said that strict action will be taken if the educational institutions do not comply with the standard operating procedures (SOPs). He further said the reopening of institutions was a difficult decision but has been taken for the future of the youth. He added matters pertaining to schedule of examinations and the course work are also being reviewed.
Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on National Health Dr Faisal Sultan said that the decision to reopen educational institutions has been made after critically reviewing the world practices and current coronavirus situation in the country.
He said that special instructions have been given to the educational institutions regarding SOPs to avoid any situation that can lead to reverting this decision.
Faisal urged the parents to ensure the use of masks for school going children. He said that schools’ administration should minimise the density of students in class rooms through shift management. He added that social distancing should be ensured in all types of gatherings in educational institutions.
Earlier, Shafqat chaired the meeting of the provincial education ministers on Monday to make a final decision on the reopening of schools.
The Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) chairperson and executive director, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, and officials of the health department were also present in the meeting, which aimed to compile the final recommendations regarding the opening of educational institutes.
The Single National Curriculum (SNC), a short curriculum for the current academic year, examinations in 2021, and establishment of anti-harassment bodies in the provinces were also on the meeting’s agenda.
A discussion on the transition plans related to the Basic Education Community Schools (BECS) and National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) was also planned for the IPEMC.
Earlier in the day, Minister for School Education Dr Murad Raas too had, through a tweet, announced to reopen schools across the province the same day.
All Public & Private Schools of Punjab to open on following schedule. Classes 9-12 to start on 15th. Classes 6-8 to start Sept 22nd. Classes Nursury-5 to start on 30th. No Double Shift. Alternative Day Schedule to be followed by all Public & Private Schools.
— Murad Raas (@DrMuradPTI) September 7, 2020
The tweet suggested students in classes nine and 10 will return on September 15, students in classes six to eight on September 22 while those in classes nursery to five will return to school on September 30.
He further said that no double shifts would be allowed while all schools would follow the alternative day schedule according to which 50 per cent of total students would come to school one day while the remaining 50 per cent would attend the next day.
SINDH SCHOOLS TO OPEN IN PHASES:
Meanwhile, Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani also said that schools in the province would open phase-wise.
“Classes nine and above would be opened on Sept 15 in the first phase and one week after that on Sept 22, classes six to eight would be opened and one week after that, that is Sept 30, the classes from pre-primary to five would be opened,” he said in a statement.
Masks would be made mandatory in all schools, he said, adding that all schools would have to implement the SOPs. Strict action would be taken against schools that do not implement SOPs, Ghani said.
NCOC ISSUES GUIDELINES FOR SCHOOLCHILDREN:
Meanwhile, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Monday issued guidelines for the parents for sending their children to schools.
In a series of text messages, the parents have been directed to ensure that the child is wearing a face mask before going to school. The mask could be surgical or made of cloth.
In case of cough and other diseases, the child should not be sent to attend the school because that can easily expose threats to the lives of other children. Necessary tests have been urged in case of deteriorating health, the NCOC guidelines say.
The parents have been also directed to report to the school if their child tests positive for the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, All Pakistan Schools and Colleges Association (APS&CA) rejected rejected the government’s decision of reopening schools phase-wise.
“All classes in schools should be reopened at the same time,” said APS&CA Chairman Malik Abrar Hussain in his statement on Monday.
He said that more delay will be harmful to the students as five precious months of the academic year have already been lost. The APS&CA chairman questioned when the shopping malls and other business activities are running in the country, then how schools will increase coronavirus patients.
Hussain alleged the government for targeting the schools and demanded to stop such practices and announce reopening of all classes of schools at the same time.