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January 16, 2021

Nursery to 8th class resumption delayed till Feb 1

Top Story

January 16, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The government has delayed the return of students of nursery to 8th classes to schools till February 1.

However, the ninth and 10th graders and college and university students will resume classes, as announced earlier. The development took place after the country’s COVID-19 nerve centre, NCOC [National Command and Operation Centre], examined the coronavirus incidence trend in the country and the learning losses suffered by students due to thepandemic-induced prolonged closure of educational institutions.

The NCOC meeting, chaired by Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar, was also attended by federal and provincial health and education ministers, either in person or via video-link.

On Jan 4, the federal government had announced the phased resumption of in-person learning in around 300,000 educational institutions countrywide from Jan 18. It, however, slightly changed the plan on the advice of the NCOC on Friday. Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood told reporters that students of grades 9-12 would resume education in-person on Jan 18, as announced earlier, while those in nursery to grade 8 would return to school on Feb 1, instead of Jan 25, maintaining less than 50 per cent attendance.

He said there was no change in the plan of reopening of the countrywide universities and colleges on Feb 1. The minister said no students would be promoted without examinations in the current year, and therefore, the decision to resume classes from 9 to 12 was made.

He said the coronavirus data showed that from Nov 26, the decline in the virus incidence had not been significant, necessitating a balance between the health and education sectors to ensure the safety of students.

Shafqat said students had suffered huge learning losses in 2020 due to the pandemic-induced school closures, which were decided by the government to protect children’s health. He said when the government announced that it was closing schools during the second wave of the virus on Nov 26, the average daily number of deaths was five and cases over 500.

The minister said the experts insisted that the infection rate in the country was highly influenced by schools. “The latest statistics show that the positivity ratio has gone down to 6.10 from 7.4, which is still comparatively high. The number of critical COVID-19 patients has increased to 2,300 and the average mortality rate has improved just a little too,” he said.

“We will review the situation again in a meeting the next week and decide if more precautionary measures are required against the virus,” he said. The minister said educational institutions in cities and districts, where the coronavirus rate was high, should remain closed.

After the outbreak of coronavirus in March 2020, all educational institutions were closed in the country for in-person classes. They reopened on Sept 15, but were closed again on Nov 26, 2020, due to the virus resurgence. They’re currently closed for winter vacation.