Even if educational institutions reopen, many parents would not send their children to school: Ghani

Updated May 20, 2020

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“There is no substitute for school and we are fully aware of this fact," says Saeed Ghani. — DawnNewsTV/File
“There is no substitute for school and we are fully aware of this fact," says Saeed Ghani. — DawnNewsTV/File

KARACHI: Sindh Minister for Education Saeed Ghani has once again said that the provincial government will soon launch an Android mobile phone application to help students attend digital classes.

Speaking at a press conference called at the Sindh Assembly auditorium on Tuesday, the minister said that even if they tried, they could not reopen schools. “Even if the government reopens the schools, there will be many parents who would not send their children to school,” he said.

“There is no substitute for school and we are fully aware of this fact. So the Sindh education department in collaboration with various NGOs has today launched an Android mobile application for students from kindergarten to class five,” he said.

“That said, internet distribution is still a problem and we are in touch with cellular services to do something about that,” he said, adding that they were also in talks with cable operators to allocate one channel dedicated for education.

The media was given details of the app on the screen. The app is the first of its kind produced by the Sindh government in English, Urdu and Sindhi, which will significantly help children study at home and follow their curriculum. “Similar educational reforms will soon be implemented through cable operators and FM radio,” he said.

Associations air their own grievances

Mr Ghani said that after the courts allowed everything to open, he truly felt that schools should also be allowed to reopen since education is far more important than Eid clothes. “However, the Constitution also stipulates that all institutions take decisions within their limits,” he said.

Answering a question, he said the government was by no means oblivious to the concerns of private school owners. “I have said time and again in all my meetings and press conferences that parents must pay their children’s school fees every month,” he said. “If not today then tomorrow, InshaAllah, the situation will be better and these educational institutions will reopen.”

Replying to another question, the minister said all the problems of teachers in the education department were being solved on a priority basis. “However, the cases pending in the courts and the cases with NAB may be delayed. Besides, the education department is working to resolve all the issues, including teachers’ salaries and the regulation of teachers who have passed tests.”

On the question of education budget for 2020-21, he said that funds were being transferred from the federation to the provinces for allocation in the budget. He said that this year there would be difficulties in the budget and also reduction in development works was expected.

School associations

The representatives of several private school associations held a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday to highlight the problems they are facing during the coronavirus pandemic when the schools are closed indefinitely.

They said there were some 12,000 registered private schools in Sindh of which 60 per cent were those schools which only charged Rs500 to Rs1,500 as school fees. Besides, there were also private schools which charged from Rs150 to Rs300 per child. “But first I’d like to tell you about 60 per cent schools that charge from Rs500 to Rs1,500. Around 98 per cent of these schools function in rented premises, and they are solely dependent on school fees,” explained Sharafuz Zaman, chairman of the Private Schools Management Association.

“When parents don’t pay these schools fees, the schools will die their own death. Then come in further problems such as the teachers who used to teach in these schools losing their jobs. They with their families will be the saddest people during the last week of Ramazan and Eid. There will be nothing to cheer in their homes,” he pointed out.

“I urge the government to also think of offering relief packages to private schools and their staff just like they have announced for other organisations and their hardworking employees,” he said.

“Does anyone, including the education department, realise that these private schools are carrying 70 per cent of the burden of educating children here? Does anyone know that after 1996, no student from any government school has bagged any position in the board exams?” claimed Arif Shah, another private school association representative.

Another issue brought before the media at the press conference was the reopening of schools. It was said by the private school representatives that it had become a matter of life and death for them. “If the Sindh government doesn’t allow us to reopen schools by June 15, we are going to do it anyway,” said Sharafuz Zaman.

“We can open the schools keeping in mind all necessary SOPs. In order to keep students at a distance from one another we can make only one child sit on a desk for two. And we can also open the schools in two shifts to accommodate all pupils,” said Bashir Ahmed Channa, chairman of the Association of Private Institutions.

Tariq Shah, chairman of the All Private Schools Management Association Sindh, said that they understood parents’ issues too and for this they had offered a reduction in school fees by 20pc to all parents who were themselves finding it hard to make ends meet during the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.

About the extension after extension in schools’ closure, he questioned the government’s backup plan. “According to the World Health Organisation, we will have to live with the coronavirus as it is going nowhere. So what is the government planning on doing? You cannot keep schools closed forever. You have to learn to go around the problem,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2020