KARACHI: Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani has assured all academia in the province that the students here will not be promoted without prior examinations this time around.
He said this during the meeting of education ministers chaired by Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood on Monday.
Mr Ghani made it clear that he was against the closure of all educational institutions and recommended that only primary schools, with an enrolment percentage of 73 per cent should be shut down.
He added that students in class six and above should be allowed to attend classes in person while the younger ones may study at home.
The minister also suggested that the examination dates of classes nine, 10, 11 and 12 should be announced after reviewing the situation.
Associations, owners reject schools’ closure decision
That said, he also suggested that those schools which want their pupils to attend classes online should also be allowed to do so. He said that schools should be directed not to take action against students whose parents don’t want to send them to school during the pandemic.
The provincial education minister said that all non-teaching activities in educational institutions should be halted.
He also took the opportunity to say that under the circumstances small private schools, tuition and coaching centres should be considered for easy bank loans as financial relief.
Private schools reject decision
There were panic alarms going off in private school circles as what they all had feared the most came true on Monday with the announcement of the closure of all educational institutions, including tuition centres for students, from Nov 26 to Dec 24 followed by winter vacations from Dec 25 to Jan 10, 2021.
In view of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, it was explained that educational institutions throughout the country should opt for home learning and online classes to keep students out of harm’s way.
As per the decision taken by the federal government, educational institutions would remain open for teachers and staff. Each province is also allowed to come up with its own policy regarding home learning. If they decide to call students to school one day a week to assign them homework between Nov 26 and Dec 24, that can be worked out.
“I think this is the start of yet another long school closure. First the government will close [schools] for a short span, then they will extend, extend and extend,” said Shahab Khan, one sceptical private school owner.
“One-month closure sounds like a lollipop,” said Amjad Ansari, another school owner.
Closure up to April feared
Yet another school owner, Amir Murtaza, said that they were being taken for a ride by politicians, be they from Islamabad or Karachi. “I believe the planning is for closure up to April. They are just not disclosing it as yet and want to give us slow poison,” he said.
Irfan Muneer, a private school owner, said that the Sindh government took a U-turn on what it had been saying all along that schools won’t be closed no matter what.
“Everything here remains open except for education institutions. We see children roaming around with their parents at shops and shopping malls without anyone observing any standard operating procedures but schools are said to be dangerous and breeding grounds for catching the coronavirus,” said another.
Tariq Shah, the chairman of the All Private Schools Management Association, also said that while raising his voice about the matter during the recent meeting of the Sindh education department’s steering committee, he had suggested the closure of other places instead of schools.
“We have requested for another steering committee meeting now to plan our next line of action in view of the federal government’s directive,” he added.
All Sindh Private Schools and Colleges Association chairman Haider Ali also rejected the announcement of closure of educational institutions.
He demanded that the Sindh education minister convene a meeting of the steering committee immediately so that a workable and acceptable policy could be formulated for the entire province in the light of the decisions of the steering committee.
Mohammad Mairaj Siddiqui, the chairman of the Organisation of Private Schools Management, said that private schools were the ones that had observed SOPs the most and yet they were punishing schools only.
On the other hand, Students-Parents Federation of Pakistan chairman Nadeem Mirza questioned: “Is this short duration closure being announced because the government is working in cahoots with private school associations? Is it being done to enable them to keep receiving school fees every month?”
Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2020