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November 24, 2020

Pakistan decides to close schools, colleges amid Covid spike

Top Story

November 24, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Merely a couple of months after the educational activities resumed following six-month hiatus, the federal government on Monday decided to close all the educational institutions across the country from November 26 till January 10 in the wake of sharp rise in coronavirus infections and deaths.

Spelling out details at a news conference alongside PM’s aide on health Dr Faisal Sultan here, Minister for Federal Education Shafqat Mahmood said all the schools, colleges, universities, tuition centres and other learning institutions would remain closed from November 26 to January 10 – including winter vacations from December 25 to January 10— due to rising coronavirus cases.

However, the minister said children would continue their academic activities online from November 26 to December 24 from their homes, and then there would be winter break for the remaining period. He said educational institutions would resume normal activities from January 11 after re-evaluation of the situation in the first week of January.

Mahmood said the decision to close educational institutions was taken in the light of recommendations by the Provincial Health Ministers and Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC).

However, the minister said students of vocational educational institutions would continue their on-job training at vocational institutes.

He further said the students, with online option, would continue their studies through that mode of education while those, with no online facility, would be facilitated under special policy, which would be introduced by the respective provincial governments.

The minister also announced the postponement of the examinations that were scheduled for December. But, he said, the examinations of assessment and recruitment would continue. Mahmood clarified that there would be no promotion of students to next class without examinations. He directed the Chairman Higher Education Commission to arrange online classes on an urgent basis for the students of higher education.

The universities, he said, were allowed to permit PhD students and those from far-flung areas to stay at universities’ hostels. He said universities would ensure strict compliance of Covid-19 SOPs for the students at hostels. He said a decision regarding attendance of school teachers would be taken by schools management.

Sharing details of the recommendations presented at the IPEMC meeting, Shafqat said the examinations, scheduled for March-April next years, would now be taken in May-June 2021. It was also recommended that the new academic year would commence in August, as earlier it had to start in April.

The summer vacations would be curtailed to lessen the eventual loss of students.Earlier, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) reviewed coronavirus situation in the country and noted that Covid-19 positivity ratio stood over seven per cent during the last 24 hours.

The session was attended by Minister for Federal Education Shafqat Mehmood while provincial representatives joined the meeting through video link. It was informed during the meeting that positivity ratio in other federating units including Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) stood at 11.45 per cent, Balochistan 7.73 per cent, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) 5.23 per cent, Islamabad 8.09 per cent, KP 9.85 per cent, Punjab 3.95 per cent and Sindh 9.63 per cent.

It was briefed that in Punjab, the major positive cases were recorded in Rawalpindi, Multan, Lahore and Faisalabad, while in Sindh, Karachi and Hyderabad had more cases. In Khyber Pakhtunkha (KP), the cities including Peshawar, Abbottabad and swat had more number of cases.

Similarly Mirpur in AJK, Gilgit and Islamabad were reporting more cases. It was told that 2,155 Covid-19 patients were currently admitted in hospitals. However, the number of critical patients had increased two folds for the last two weeks. On average 35 people lost lives during the last week. It was informed that 19 per cent cases came from education sector.

The positivity ratio in educational institutions increased from 1.8 per cent to 3.3 per cent during the last one week, amounting to 82 per cent increase in educational institutions.