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September 19, 2020

Continuation of online education advocated

Islamabad

September 19, 2020

Islamabad : As poor adherence to safety and prevention standard operating procedures (SOPs) against novel coronavirus has been reported in educational institutions since their reopening on September 15, voices are growing in support of the continued online learning of children from preschool to middle standards, for the sake of their health.

Parents are piling on concerns about the growing virus incidence recorded by colleges and universities, which resumed academic activities on September 15, after the pandemic-induced six months long hiatus.

They fear for the students in nursery to grade five, who are slated to return to school on September 30.

“I’m very upset to see the reports of noncompliance with [COVID-19] standard operating procedures and detection of coronavirus cases pour in from educational institutions. There’s a greater likelihood of the things worsening in the days ahead risking the health of minor students. In this light, I request the government to withdraw permission for schools, especially primary ones, to resume in-person instruction. Virtual learning is the best way to prevent the spread of infection among children,” said Sumbal Khan, a mother of two schoolchildren.

Mariam Jamil, whose daughter is a fourth grader, also advocated online education of minors to prevent what she called the second wave of coronavirus in the country.

She said if the students in higher grades were reportedly not using face marks and practicing social distancing on campus, then how the schools would ensure small children adopt precautionary measures against coronavirus on return.

“Calling minors and children up to middle standard to school is tantamount to endangering the health of both theirs and family members. The schools should hold virtual classes of major subjects, including English, Urdu and Science, until the [COVID-19] danger is over,” she said.

The woman declared the closure of over 30 educational institutions in the country over SOP violation within 48 hours of their reopening and dozens of students and teachers testing positive for the virus ‘just the tip of the iceberg’ and said she knew many parents, who were indisposed to send their small children to school even if they’re open.

Sana Wajid, a housewife, said two of her children studied in grade six but she won't let them go to school due to low immunity.

There are reports about Federal Directorate of Education deputy director (schools) Samina Zia and Islamabad Model College for Boys G-7/2 Secondary School Teacher (SST) Khan Muhammad Koso testing positive for COVID-19 last week.

The doctors share the parents’ concerns in light of coronavirus outbreaks among students in some Western countries and ask the government to be very cautious about resumption of primary and middle standard classes.

Dr Wasim Khawaja of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, the federal capital’s largest government hospital, said coronavirus outbreaks had been reported in the US, UK, Canadian and Israeli schools as students returned for in-person learning and in some cases, schools had to revert to online teaching to prevent the spread of the virus.

He said the children were generally thought to be at a low risk of developing COVID-19 but the latest studies showed that they could both contract and transmit the virus like adults.

The doctor said Israel witnessed a second wave of coronavirus after it allowed students the physical presence in schools, which was considered to be a reason for the spread of the virus to the students’ family members and other people.

He said the government should adopt a cautious approach towards the reopening of the in-person preschool and primary classes to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks among students.

When contacted, FDE director (schools) Abdul Waheed insisted that the regulator was ensuring strict compliance with SOPs by government educational institutions in the federal capital through regular inspections and won’t make any compromise on it.

He said parents shouldn’t be worried about their children as strict measures were in place on campus for their protection from the virus.

Officials of the district administration acknowledged the risks posed by the reopening of schools during pandemic to the children’s health but insisted that only NCOC, the country’s COVID-19 nerve centre, had to decide about virtual or in-person learning.