ISLAMABAD: With the number of Covid-19 cases declining across the country, federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood on Thursday announced that the restrictions imposed on schools in some major cities to conduct three-day classes in a week had been removed.
During the ongoing second wave of the pandemic, the country saw over 3,000 cases daily — the number has now come down to around 1,300.
The federal and provincial governments had in a meeting at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) last month allowed educational institutions to reopen as per their routine, but schools in four urban centres — Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore and Peshawar — were allowed to open schools only three days a week.
However, the federal education minister on Thursday announced that such restrictions in these cities had been lifted and they were now allowed to hold regular classes. “Important announcement. All schools will go back to regular 5 day classes from Monday March 1. Restrictions imposed in some major cities on schools to conduct staggered classes was only till Feb 28,” Mr Mahmood tweeted.
“This announcement applies to every educational institutions in the designated cities where restrictions had been imposed. Allah SWTs infinite mercy that we are returning to normal,” he said, adding that all educational institutions would continue to observe normal Covid-19 standards operating procedures (SOPs) such as physical distancing, mask wearing and ensuring hand washing facilities.
The federal education minister, while speaking to Dawn, said the NCOC had already decided to lift the ban in the four cities from February 28. “Today, in my tweet I just elaborated,” he said, adding that from March 1 all schools of the country will hold regular classes under the SOPs. “We [schools] are back to business with SOPs.”
The minister said that now it was incumbent upon the heads of schools to ensure implementation of the SOPs.
“All educational institutions will continue to observe normal coronavirus SOPs such as physical distancing, mask wearing and ensuring hand washing facilities,” said a press release issued by education ministry hours after Mr Mahmood’s announcement on Twitter.
It said: “In continuation of the announcement by Shafqat Mahmood…on resumption of a regular school week for urban centers of Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore and Peshawar. It is further clarified that these urban centres had been restricted to a three-day school week by NCOC because of a high spike in Covid-19 cases.”
It added that after review of the Covid-19 cases in these centers, this restriction was being removed. The ministry, however, reiterated that the SOPs were still fully applicable on schools with a special emphasis on use of masks, physical distancing and hand washing.
It is relevant to note here that the government had already extended the ongoing academic session because from March 2019 till date the schools saw opening-closure scenario due to Covid-19 cases. Earlier, this session was supposed to end in March-April, but education ministers of the country had last month decided to extend the session till May-June and the next session will start in August.
Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2021