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September 16, 2020

Students return to classrooms after six months hiatus

Islamabad

September 16, 2020

Islamabad : Educational institutions on Tuesday welcomed back students in a phased reopening following a coronavirus-induced six months long closure amid a steady decline in virus deaths and cases.

The university and college students as well as schoolchildren in grade nine and 10 attended classes after undergoing temperature screening, being disinfected and told to wear face masks at entrance to prevent the infection, whose daily incidence in the country has dramatically dropped from nearly 7,000 to 200 cases over the last few months.

Only half of the class strength was allowed to sit in lecture rooms with social distancing measures in place. The other half will show up the next day.

Eighth, seventh and sixth graders will return to school on September 23 and those enrolled in primary classes on September 30.

All educational institutions, including seminaries, were closed for three weeks on March 13 after the outbreak of coronavirus in the country. The closure was extended as the virus cases and deaths spiked.

The educational institutions reopened enforcing preventive measures against COVID-19, including social distancing, hand washing, face coverings and improved ventilation.

Good attendance was reported with most students following safety protocols and schools checking body temperature of both students and staff members and disinfecting them. Federal education minister Shafqat Mahmood visited private and government schools and colleges in Islamabad to examine adherence to safety measures.

“We are closely monitoring situation and have set up control rooms for the purpose. If we notice any slackness in the implementation of health guidelines, first a warning will be issued to schools and later, they will be closed although it will be an injustice to students,” he said.

The minister said the entire nation needed to be united to defeat the pandemic. Parliamentary secretary for education Wajiha Akram Khan visited the Islamabad Model College for Boys F-8/4, while education secretary Farah Hamid Khan went to the Islamabad Model College for Girls in F-6/2 to formally welcome students back.

They asked both students and staff members to strictly follow health guidelines to prevent the virus. The reopening of educational institutions attracted a mixed reaction from parents.

Azam Khan, who dropped off his son at H-8 Postgraduate College for Men, said he was happy to see resumption of on-campus classes as the prolonged closure was wasting the students’ precious time. He said the college followed standard operating procedures to stem the spread of coronavirus.

“It’s very pleasing to note that the administration is taking the health of students very seriously,” he said.

Some parents feared the resurgence of COVID-19 over noncompliance with precautionary measures by students, especially little ones.

A teacher of Islamabad Model College for Girls F-7/2 said classrooms had been completely ‘re-organised’ to ensure two meters distance among students, while most colleges had split classes into separate bubbles with first year one happening on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and second year’s on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

“We have decided to hold classes on rotation basis. It was the first day allotted to second year. As declared by SOPs, the body temperature of students was checked at entrance, while they’re sanitized as well. On the first day, the level of confidence of the second year students was low as around 50 per cent presence was observed. The turnout will increase tomorrow, which is the first day of first year (newcomers),” she said.

Islamabad Model Postgraduate College H-8 principal Professor Qasim Masood said the college had begun preparing for the reopening three weeks ago.

“Today, the situation was manageable. The chief proctor and teachers were stationed at the main gate to ensure the first day went smoothly and without risks. Over 50 per cent students were present in the college. Each class had about 25 students,” he said. The principal said he was satisfied that nothing untoward happened on campus on the first day of the opening.