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May 20, 2020

Reopening of educational institutions impossible, says education minister


May 20, 2020

To avoid the spread of coronavirus, the Sindh government is not in a position to reopen the educational institutes in the current circumstances, said Sindh Education and Labour Minister Saeed Ghani on Tuesday.

Neither would parents take a risk to send their children to attend schools and colleges even if the government decided to open the educational institutes, Gahni said while addressing a press conference at Sindh Assembly Auditorium.

He said the provincial government had no substitute for schools. “However, the Sindh School Education Department and College Education Department in collaboration with various NGOs launched an android mobile application for students from KG to Class V,” he added.

On the occasion, the minister also inaugurated an educational application that offers lessons in English, Urdu and Sindhi to primary students from kindergarten to class five. He said the application would help children read curriculum at homes. “Similar educational reforms will soon be implemented through cable operators and FM radio,” he added.

Ghani acknowledged that the closure of the educational institutions had damaged education, “but given the situation and the briefings given to us by the experts through the task force on a daily basis, it is still impossible for the government to reopen educational institutions”.

“After the court’s decision, my personal opinion is that we should not only open schools but also allow all kinds of activities, because education is more important than purchasing clothes for Eid,” he said.

The minister said whether the decision of the court is wrong or right, “we are bound to abide by this decision”. However, he added, the constitution also stipulated that all institutions should take decisions within their limits and it was the responsibility of the government to ensure the implementation of these decisions.

To a question, he said: "We are by no means oblivious to the concerns of the private school owners. So, I have said in all my meetings and press conferences that parents must pay their children's school fees every month."

He said all the problems of teachers in the education department were being resolved on a priority basis, however, the cases pending in the courts and in the National Accountability Bureau may be delayed. “Besides, the education department is working to resolve all issues, including the teachers' salaries, their regulation.”

About the education budget for the fiscal year 2020-21, he said this year there would be difficulties in the budget and also a reduction in the development works. He said it was clear that Sindhi must be taught in all educational institutions.

To another question, he said: “The decision to close shopping malls is not ours but of the federation and even today we are implementing the decisions of the federal government in Sindh.” ‘Open schools’

On the other hand, the All Private Schools Management Association Sindh has demanded of the government to reopen educational institutes with strict SOPs being followed by other countries.

The leaders of the association, while addressing a press conference at Karachi Press Club on Tuesday, said the education minister should convene the steering committee’s meeting so that the SOPs and the calendar of the new academic year could be decided.

They said a majority of low-cost private schools would not survive in the current crisis because the government had no plan to financially assist these schools. The administrators of such institutes would close their schools and resultantly a new educational crisis would be observed, they added. “It will also boost the number of out-of-school children.”

They said the government had accepted that it had no plan and solution to minimise the educational disruption. But the authorities were still not ready to listen to the educational experts and educators of private sectors, they added.

They asked if the government wanted to keep the educational institutions closed for more than two months, then what was the plan for those students who did have access to online classes, especially in a case when the government had no statistics regarding those students whose parents hardly afforded low-fee private schools.

A majority of the private school owners in this critical situation had accepted the government orders of giving 20 per cent concession in tuition fees for two months without considering its legal sides, they said. “But what measures the government had taken for those low-cost private schools which are on the verge of closure. Even the owners of private schools are forced to pay heavy taxes to the government.”

Meanwhile, the All Sindh Private Schools and Colleges Association in its press statement said that if the provincial government had no plan to reopen schools, the association would be free to open schools on June 15.