close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
 
August 15, 2020

Back to school?

Editorial

 
August 15, 2020

At this time in the year, children around the world are generally making preparation to return to school after the long summer break. This year though things are less certain. According to the UN, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused the largest destruction in the education system in our history. Nearly 94 percent of the student population worldwide has been affected in 190 countries across the globe. There is no doubt that the gap has affected the learning of children and created huge divides. While children attending elite private schools in Pakistan and indeed around the world have managed to somewhat keep up with learning online, those at government schools or other facilities are unable or far less able to benefit from online learning programmes leaving many far behind in their educational attainment. As a consequence, Kenya for example has decided to simply cancel the year and make schools repeat the entire grade. The quality gap between schools has been opened up further by the pandemic.

In Pakistan, the education ministry is considering reopening schools by September 15th. A final meeting will be held a week before this date. But during the relatively short time we have left there are many decisions to make. Certainly, Pakistan does not have the finances to provide protective equipment to teachers or even to offer good sanitary conditions to pupils. In this situation there is a fear that as happened in Israel the reopening of schools may bring forward new cases of Covid-19. The initial belief amongst health experts that young children were not affected by this disease has changed and it is noted that many can in fact either suffer symptoms or develop asymptomatic Covid.

There are also differences between various parts of Pakistan and its various provinces. Education is a provincial subject. However, given the scale of emergency it is necessary that the federal government and the provinces work together to ensure a strategy that is safe while protecting children from further educational loss but also from health hazards. In addition to children, teachers and other staff at schools have also expressed apprehensions about reopening without very stringent SOPs and protective gear. The question is a difficult one to answer. Pakistan already has one of the largest numbers of out-of-school children in the world. The situation in its classrooms and communities also makes social distancing extremely arduous. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s suggestion of a graduated opening of schools is certainly worth looking at. Other stakeholders must also be encouraged to put in suggestions which make it possible to learn safely. The task is a difficult one. We do not want to expose children to potential risks. There should be no reopening of schools without a proper strategy and plenty of thinking. For this the entire country must work together so that the best possible schemes can be worked out and risk kept low for all those employed or engaged in other capacities at schools.