ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Federal Education will likely announce the reopening of educational institutions from Sept 15 in phases, following a meeting of education ministers scheduled for Sept 7.
Although advice from the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has not yet been given to the education ministry - based on which decisions will be made on the segregation of students - some NHS ministry officials have also proposed opening primary schools.
“Surprisingly, there is an opinion from some health officials that primary schools should be opened in the first phase. It is a proposal and not a final decision,” an education ministry official said.
Minister for Federal Education Shafqat Mahmood told Dawn that a final decision has not been made in this regard.
“There was a proposal [from the NHS ministry] to open kids classes in the first phase, but final advice has yet to be given by the health ministry,” he said.
Decision will be finalised based on NHS ministry’s input, after Sept 7 meeting of education ministers
He said education ministers from across the country will meet on Sept 7 to reach a decision with consensus that is in the interest of students and the education sector.
Various proposals are under consideration, he said, including opening schools with segregated classes or classes on alternate days.
An NHS ministry official said that a final decision has not been made yet. He said concerned ministry officials will meet with education ministry officials today (Thursday) to discuss proposals for reopening schools.
An official from the education ministry said that it is believed that children below the age of 10 are less likely to spread the coronavirus than those 10 and older, but added that the education ministry itself does not have the expertise to deal with this issue and will act on the advice of the NHS ministry.
He said the NHS ministry has been working on this and will likely give its comprehensive input next week, which will be taken up at the interprovincial education ministers conference.
Educational institutions have been closed across the country since March 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, the government lifted lockdown restrictions and allowed various businesses and industries to reopen after a decrease in reported cases of Covid-19.
Since then, owners of private schools have been asking for schools to be opened as well. Some schools even reopened on Aug 15, in defiance of government instructions.
The Ministry of Federal Education, however, decided that the matter of reopening schools would first be discussed in the education ministers meeting, which would decide whether to open schools on Sept 15.
“It has yet to be decided whether primary schools will be reopened in the first phase or high schools, but there are certain chances that schools will be opened with the segregation of classes so that standard operating procedure (SOP) can be properly implemented,” a ministry official said, adding that the SOP will be finalised during the Sept 7 meeting.
Since the 18th Amendment devolved education, the Ministry of Federal Education only has a supervisory role and provinces are free to make decisions on their own. In the case of a national issue, education ministers from across the country meet under the umbrella of the inter-provincial education ministers conference to make a decision.
For Islamabad-based institutions, officials in the education ministry said a proposal to reduce the curriculum is being considered to avoid placing an additional burden on them when schools open.
Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2020