ISLAMABAD: Country’s education and health ministers are set to attend a meeting on Friday to decide about opening of educational institutions from Monday or extend the closure for a few more weeks.
The federal and provincial education and health ministers will attend the meeting of National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) which will be chaired by Planning Minister Asad Umar.
Sources said health authorities could recommend delaying the reopening of schools for a few weeks as they consider the ongoing second wave of Covid-19 more lethal than the first one.
The sources said the education ministers want reopening of schools from class 9th to 12 as per the announced schedule from Jan 18.
“At the NCOC meeting, education and health ministers will review the ongoing trend of Covid-19 before announcing their decision. The decision will be taken after reviewing all the aspects. Nothing is final yet all stakeholders will present their view points in meeting,” Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood told Dawn.
He said the government wanted to see the opening of schools as soon as possible but let me made it clear: “Health is top priority, so we can’t make compromise on health of students and teachers. At the same time, we want opening of schools as students have already faced loss of education. So before taking final decision all aspects will be discussed.” On Jan 4, the education ministers on the advice of health experts had announced reopening of educational institutions in phases from Jan 18.
They had decided that in the first phase classes from 9 to 12 will be reopened followed by primary and middle schools from Jan 25 and in the final phase higher educational institutions from Feb 1.
However, the ministers had decided that before reopening a review meeting will be held on Jan 15.
The meeting of the education ministers had also decided to postpone board examinations for class 9th to 12th from March-April to May-June to provide some extra time to students to complete their courses.
While it was also decided that the new session will be started in August to provide extra time to students to cover the educational loss as educational institutions remained closed from March to September last year and then from November onward.
A schoolteacher said shifting the academic session from March to August will burden students for the next academic year.
“In the ongoing academic year, students have already faced loss of education and if the academic session starts in August, students will have only seven months in the next session (Aug 2021 to March 2022) to complete their work. He said if imperative the session should be started from August as a regular feature. He said during the regime of Pervez Musharraf such an attempt was made only to withdraw it later.
Asked about the issue, the federal education minister said the government will look into it.
“Personally, I want to start academic session from August as a regular feature not for one year only,” he said.
Another important issue relates to the age bar for the new admission. In many cases particularly in missionary schools, they enroll students of certain age in the nursery class. This year, if the session starts in August, many students will miss the opportunity to get admission in schools of their choices.
When the minister was asked about this, he said: “We will look into this issue too.”
Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2021