Educational institutions reopen today after six months

Published September 15, 2020
Students wash their hands before entering as schools reopen in Peshawar. — Photo by Sirajuddin
Students wash their hands before entering as schools reopen in Peshawar. — Photo by Sirajuddin
KARACHI: A teacher puts up a sign at a government school following an official announcement to reopen educational institutions from Sept 15. — AFP
KARACHI: A teacher puts up a sign at a government school following an official announcement to reopen educational institutions from Sept 15. — AFP

• Imran terms it collective responsibility to ensure safety of schoolchildren
• NCOC issues SOPs to prevent spread of virus
• Govt vows to take action against non-complying schools

ISLAMABAD: After a six-month hiatus, educational institutions across the country are all set to open their doors to students from Tuesday (today) — in phases.

From September 15, schools (Classes 9th and 10th only), colleges and universities are going to reopen in phases while ensuring compliance with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to avoid spread of novel coronavirus disease in accordance with the last week decision of the inter-provincial education ministers’ conference (IPEMC). Secondary and primary classes will resume later this month.

All educational institutions have been lying closed since March 15, weeks after the virus outbreak in the country.

Just a day before the reopening of educational institutions, Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted: “Tomorrow we will welcome millions of children back to school. It is our priority & collective responsibility to ensure that every child can go to school safely to learn. We have worked to ensure that school operations are aligned with public health safety rules on #COVID19.”

Speaking to Dawn, federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said Tuesday was very important for the country’s education sector. The reopening of educational institutions was not an easy decision, he said, but the IPEMC following the health ministry’s advice decided to open the educational institutions in phases under the SOPs so that the education system could move ahead.

“It’s a big responsibility of teachers, schools administrators and parents and adult students as well to ensure implementation of the SOP in true letter and spirit,” Mr Mahmood said, adding that the government could take action against the institutions which would not implement SOPs.

“Being federal minister, I will monitor implementation of SOP in the capital city. I will also make visits to some institutions on Tuesday, while provincial government will ensure implementation of SOP in their respective provinces,” Mr Mahmood said, claiming that safety and wellbeing of students was government’s top priority.

According to education ministry officials, major points of the SOPs are reduction in number of students to ideally 20, depending on classroom size, ensuring social distance in classrooms, wearing of masks by students and school staff, no entry without mask in institutions etc.

While educational institutions are going to reopen when the number of active cases of Covid-19 had already dropped down to less than 6,000 across the country, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has advised parents to ensure their children follow SOPs including wearing of face masks.

“Don’t send them to school with symptoms of cough and fever. Get them tested in case of severe symptoms of Covid-19 and inform the educational institution if report is found positive. Ensure social distancing among children and suggest them to use hand sanitizers. Moreover, transporters should also maintain social distancing, in vehicles, while shifting them to schools,” the NCOC advised.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2020

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