Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho has expressed strong concern at sending young children, especially those in primary and middle classes, to school during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood had announced that educational institutions around the country would reopen on September 15 provided that the "health indicators improve".
Mahmood had further said standard operating procedures (SOPs) would be put in place before the opening of educational institutions and that authorities were mulling over several options. The government was looking at several options including scheduling classes for different standards on alternate days, he said, adding that there were also suggestions of holding classes in open air.
However, Dr Pechuho warned that it would be difficult to get young children to take precautions and follow SOPs. In a video message, she said she was "very concerned".
"I am very concerned because our children are vulnerable. Their going to school, especially those [children] in primary and junior school is very concerning amid the coronavirus pandemic. Until we get rid of corona, we should only teach them at home," she said, adding that she was aware that a lot of private schools and their managements were protesting to reopen schools.
"We can tell older children to take precautions, which they will do because they are sensible. They will maintain social distancing and wear masks and will frequently wash their hands. If [schools] disinfect the classrooms and ensure distancing [they] can ask older children to come back.
"But younger children are not mature and their behaviour is such that they hug each other and they have bodily contact with each other. They [tend to] talk while standing close to each other, they cannot maintain social distancing.
"They will take off their masks due to the heat. In this way, corona can spread in schools," she cautioned.
The minister said that teachers could "control to a large extent", but they would not be able to strictly watch the children for the entirety of the school day or ask them to strictly follow instructions.