Reopening of educational institutions to be decided today

Published January 4, 2021
Teachers disinfect hands of students upon their arrival at a school in Lahore on September 15, 2020. — AP/File
Teachers disinfect hands of students upon their arrival at a school in Lahore on September 15, 2020. — AP/File
  • Decision to be taken on basis of health ministry’s input
  • Ministers to also discuss rescheduling of matric, intermediate exams, education policy

ISLAMABAD: The country’s education ministers will be taking a number of important decisions today (Monday) with the reopening of educational institutions being the first and foremost. Sources said the federal education ministry, owing to the ongoing wave of Covid-19, was not in favour of reopening educational institutions on Jan 11, but it wanted to take a decision through consensus.

“The final decision on whether educational institutions should be reopened on Jan 11 or vacations extended till the end of the month will be taken in Monday’s meeting after getting input from the health ministry on the current status of Covid-19,” said an officer of the education ministry.

He said if the health ministry advised on extending vacations, the federal education ministry would take no time to extend the holidays, regardless of what the private school owners say.

The school owners have been demanding reopening of schools from Jan 11.

“Health of students and teachers is important to us. We cannot recommend opening of schools on the pressure of school owners. How can we put the health of children at risk for the sake of the private school owners. Therefore, let me be clear, we will take a decision in the light of the health ministry’s recommendations,” the officer said.

He said the ministry would, however, plead phase-wise reopening of institutions starting from Jan 25 with primary schools, followed by phase two from Feb 4 and phase 3 from Feb 15.

Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood, who will preside over the meeting of the inter-provincial education ministers, told Dawn that he could not say anything about the reopening of schools on Jan 11 or otherwise, adding that the education ministers would take the decision on the advice of the health ministry.

Educational institutions saw months-long closure in 2020 due to Covid-19. They were closed in March and then reopened in September only to be shut down again the next month due to the constant rise in coronavirus cases.

The meeting will also discuss extending the academic session till August instead of April. In the last meeting, the ministers had also discussed rescheduling matriculation and intermediate examinations, proposing that they be held in May-June instead of March. This issue will also be taken up in the meeting.

Meanwhile, private school owners have been pleading that educational institutions be reopened under strict standard operating procedures.

Last week, representatives of the school owners held a press conference in Islamabad and demanded that schools be reopened and a financial package be announced for educational institutions.

It is relevant to note that when schools were reopened in September, a numbers of positive cases were reported there and around 100 institutions were closed within a period of two weeks.

Monday’s meeting will also discuss the upcoming education policy, likely to be launched on March 23.

The ministers will share the outcome and progress made so far in their respective areas in this regard.

At present, the National Education Policy 2009 is in place and the government will have a new one after 12 years.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2021

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