KARACHI: As the Covid-19 positivity ratio rises in the country, especially in Karachi, and authorities ponder over whether to keep schools open or closed for children under 12 years of age, some private educational institutes in the metropolis have decided to revert to online classes from Wednesday.

Also, the directorate of inspection and registration of private institutions of the school education and literacy department, Sindh, has issued an advisory for parents to protect their children against the Omicron variant.

Pointing out that the new variant of the coronavirus is spreading at the rate of more than 40 per cent in Karachi, directorate’s Mansoob Hussain Siddiqui has offered suggestions to parents that include not to take their children to weddings, it being wedding season, and also other public places.

He said that the government intended to keep educational institutions open for the process of education to continue without suspension and save the precious time of the students.

Govt asks parents to protect their children from Omicron variant; says it intends to keep educational institutions open

Still, they can have their children vaccinated. For this, district health department teams are visiting the schools. Also, children must not be allowed to go or be taken out unless unavoidable. They must also be kept away from gatherings or crowds such as weddings and parties, markets and malls, parks, etc.

When in schools, they are to strictly observe all the standard operating procedures such as wearing of masks. On their return from school, they may be asked to wash their hands and faces with soap to get rid of any possible germs.

The list of recommendations also advised that they not be allowed to purchase anything to eat from outside.

The advisory also added that parents as primary caregivers must ensure that their children take the necessary precautions to save themselves from the pandemic.

Online classes to continue until month end

Meanwhile, some private schools in the city have decided not to take any undue risks as they have suspended on-campus classes.

Mrs Kermin Parakh, principal, BVS Parsi High School, told Dawn that it should come as no surprise since so many people are falling ill. “Most private schools have been shut since January 1. So many teachers are sick. Some have Covid. This includes parents, kids and whole families so we are reverting to online classes,” she said.

As per their notification, the school will be doing online classes from “Wednesday, January 19 till Friday January 28” following which they will take the weekend to review the situation.

“If things settle down, we will commence regular school from January 31,” the notification read, while also adding that students are to be in uniform and on time for their online classes.

The Mama Parsi Girls’ Secondary School has also decided the same, “The last week of January we’ll be deciding and thereafter informing you whether to start on-site school from January 31 or to carry on with online teaching,” read the Mama Parsi School note to parents. It also reminded them to inform their van transporter for their daughter’s pick and drop service to and from school accordingly.

Not taking things lightly but also concerned about what parents think, the Dawood Public School has decided to conduct a survey asking parents about continuity of on-site schooling during the current resurgence of Covid.

Private Schools Management Association chairman Danish uz Zaman also said that they need to consider parent’s situation regarding this matter also. “Most schools can organise online classes now but many parents cannot afford to provide their children with the gadgets needed to take online classes,” he said.

“You have to keep in mind that 80 per cent of private schools here are not elite schools. They charge fees from Rs500 to Rs5,000 and they are doing all that they can to educate children from middle class homes. Already, many students have suffered due to school closures since 2020. Some have returned with horrible handwriting, some have forgotten their lessons and need to go through several rounds of revisions,” he said.

“For these schools, it is best to carry on with physical classes while following SOPs such as wearing masks and taking care of social distancing. In case any school is unable to do that, there is the directorate of private schools to complain to about that school,” he said.

As that debate carries on, almost all private universities as well as their students are now well-equipped to switch to online classes. The first to take the decision to suspend physical classes for now is the Habib University. It went online from Monday, January 17.

Several A-Level colleges in the city have also quietly switched to online classes.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2022

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