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September 19, 2020

Corona restarts to crawl upwards

Top Story

September 19, 2020

Corona restarts to crawl upwards

KARACHI: A bickering of sorts emerged between Sindh and the federal education ministers after the former decided not to open pre-primary, primary and middle schools following a 2.4 per cent spike in the Covid-19 cases in Sindh, while the federal government insisted to go ahead with school reopening schedule.

Announcing the decision, the Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani claimed the Covid-19 scenario in the province was "scary" and they could not threaten the lives of children. "We have informed the federal minister for education and other provincial ministers but due to the emergent situation, the situation regarding coronavirus pandemic is bad. We cannot wait for the NCOC meeting," he said.

The Federal Education Minister, Shafqat Mahmood, on the other hand, said the decision to reopen the schools from Sept 21, taken in the inter-provincial meeting of education ministers, would be implemented.

While addressing a press conference in the Sindh Assembly on Friday, the Sindh Education Minister, Saeed Ghani, said the Sindh government will inform the federal minister for education and the Committee of Education Ministers of all the provinces about the provincial government’s decision and every effort will be made to ensure that all private and public educational institutions followed the SOPs.

“We have serious concerns about the economic situation of private educational institutions and children's education, but we cannot compromise on children's health” Ghani said and added that he himself had been visiting educational institutions in different districts of Karachi for the last four days while all the officers, including the secretary of the education department and members of the administration, are also visiting the educational institutions.

“Unfortunately, the educational institutions of both sectors, private and public, are not fully implementing the SOPs," he said. “On Thursday, I have sealed four private schools which were violating the SOPs. The situation on Friday was also the same. Even the schools which are known as better educational institutions were also found violating the SOPs. They have to provide sanitizing facilities to students, maintain social distance and students have to wear face masks,” he said.

He said the education department had launched a drive to conduct tests for teaching and non-teaching staffers of all private and government educational institutions. At present, around 14,544 tests have been conducted between 12th September to 17th September and out of them so far they have 3,636 test results, of which 89 have been found to be corona positive, which is 2.4 percent. However, if the situation improves in the future, these schools will be reopened in the third phase while classes from ninth to tenth will be functional in the current situation.

Responding to a question, he said that the situation regarding the coronavirus pandemic was bad and they could not wait for the NCOC meeting. "We have coordinated with the federal minister of education and the ministers of education of all the provinces regarding the decision we have taken.”

Saeed Ghani said the department has decided that it will postpone the phase in which the schools organizing classes from 6 to 8 will be reopened in the third phase with pre-primary and primary if the situation improved. "We cannot play with children's health for the sake of their education and the financial loss of schools," he said. "From the day one, we appealed to parents to follow the SOPs, but we do not see any positive progress from parents’ side," he said.

Replying to another question, Saeed Ghani said that in order to solve the economic problems of private educational institutions, he had twice requested the federal government and the NCOC to provide them interest free loans. He said that with the help of Microsoft, they had so far completed the registration of more than 500,000 students in online classes and created their IDs and this process was continuing. Up to 60pc students will definitely benefit from this initiative.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood on Friday said the reopening of schools for sixth, seventh, and eighth-graders across the country will go on as planned. Mahmood said that the timetable announced in the inter-provincial meeting of education ministers would be implemented. "We will meet in the National Command and Operations Centre on 22nd to decide finally but if the current trend remains, no reason to postpone 6 to 8 opening on 23rd September," he added.

Classes 6th to 8th were to resume on September 21. Pre-primary and primary classes have been scheduled to resume on September 30.

Earlier Friday, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) said 10 educational institutions in KP and three in Sindh had been shut down for flouting the standard operating procedures laid down by the government to safeguard against the spread of Covid-19.

Globally, the pandemic has killed at least 946,727 people in the world since late December with more than 30.2 million confirmed infections. The United States remains the country which mourns the most deaths with at least 197,655, Brazil then follows with 134,935, India (84,372), Mexico (72,179) and Britain (41,705).

In a related development, the Students and Parents Federation of Pakistan in its statement said that the decision taken by the Sindh education minister was reasonable and the federation has welcomed it.

SPFP Chairman Nadim Mirza said that reopening of schools in the current situation was not possible because 2.4 percent of staffers had been tested for the Covid-19. “We will not allow education to play with the lives of our children as educators have already wasted the current academic year. They just want to collect fees in the name of so-called educational activities.”

In a related development, the All Sindh Private Schools and Colleges Association in its statement criticized the government’s decision, saying that the current academic year will be missed if such decisions were implemented.

The ASPSCA Chairman, Haider Ali, said that all private schools in Sindh were following the SOPs while the sector of education was well prepared as compared to other sectors. “The Sindh government can’t announce closure of all schools on the basis of mistakes committed by a few schools. However, there is a need to fully implement the SOPs in public schools."

He pointed out that the monitoring committees which were functioning under the supervision of the directorate of private schools have not reported any school violating the SOPs. “The provincial education minister should convene the SELD’s steering meeting to decide if there is a need to further close the schools or not.”