LAHORE: The Punjab government on Friday decided to close all public and private schools, colleges and universities in the province due to a surge in Covid-19 cases and suspended inter-city transport between 15 major cities.

Punjab has reported 1,368 Covid cases and 20 related deaths over the past 24 hours, raising the tally of cases to 397,694 and the death toll to 11,979.

The number of active cases in Punjab stands at 24,650, with a 6.1 per cent positivity ratio, while in Lahore it was 9pc, Rawalpindi 9.9pc, Multan 3.4pc, Faisalabad 5.5pc and Jhang 22.9pc.

Punjab Minister for School Education Murad Raas on Friday announced closure of all public and private schools in the province from Sept 6 to 11 due to increasing Covid-19 cases.

Inter-city transport between 15 cities suspended

The minister tweeted, “All Public & Private Schools of Punjab to be closed from September 6th to September 11th, 2021 due Covid-19 conditions. Please stay home and stay safe. Protect yourself and your families.”

The educational institutes in Punjab were opened in August following summer vacation after the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) okayed the resumption of in-person classes.

Meanwhile, Serving Schools Association Pakistan condemned the closure and demanded the prime minister Imran Khan to review the decision.

In the association’s urgent meeting held in Gulberg on Friday its president Mian Razaul Rehman said the schools were already badly affected because of the closure of on-campus academic activities for the last one and a half years.

He said the NCOC had not issued any directions for schools’ closure. He alleged that Mr Raas ordered the closure of schools as the Single National Curriculum (SNC) books were not available in the market.

Similarly, the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation president Kashif Mirza regretted that everything was open, but doors of education were closed again. He alleged that the decision had been taken to cover up the government’s inability to ensure availability of new SNC books in the market.

Criticising the government’s decision, he said Afghan refugees and flights from all over the world were landing in Pakistan, spreading the new coronavirus variant in the country, asking why should schools be closed.

“If the government and politicians really want to save the future of children and the nation from Covid-19, they should postpone their own political and election activities,” he added.

He said the schools closure would deprive more than 50 million students of Punjab of their fundamental right to education.

About online classes, he said only two percent elite class students had access to online education, while the other children who were out of school across the countr, should be given their constitutional rights to education.

Mr Mirza demanded that the students and staff of private and public institutions should be vaccinated against the virus on priority.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Higher Education Department (HED) also issued orders of closing all public and private colleges and universities in 15 different cities of the province from Sept 4 to 12 due to an increase in coronavirus cases.

According to a notification available with Dawn, “In pursuance of instruction issued by NCOC, all public/private universities, degree awarding institutes and colleges in following cities shall remain closed due to high disease prevalence.”

The cities where campuses were closed and transport suspended include Rawalpindi, Gujrat, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Sialkot, Lahore, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Khushab, Mianwali, Bhakkar, Khanewal, Multan, Bahawalpur and Rahim Yar Khan.

However, the institutes in the remaining areas will follow a staggered attendance schedule. All the concerned authorities shall ensure the adherence to Covid-19 SOPs in letter and spirit. They must also ensure 100 per cent vaccination of all teaching and non-teaching staff and students as well.

In case of noncompliance, the authorities concerned shall be held responsible, the notification said.

Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2021

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