KARACHI: The Sindh Education Department issued warning letters on Wednesday to 40 private schools and suspended the registration of two other private schools for denying polio teams entry on their premises during the on-going polio drive.
According to the education and health departments, the schools, which include daycares, pre-schools and elementary schools located in the South and West districts, had refused entry to the polio teams, claiming that their students had already received the polio vaccine.
The education department issued explanation letters to 20 such schools in each district, warning them to comply with the government’s orders or face strict action.
“We are cooperating with the health department,” said Directorate of Private Institutions registrar Rafia Mallah, adding that the education department had agreed to fully support the on-going polio drive. “This is a national cause and every citizen has to cooperate. It’s a crippling disease that not only disables our children physically but affects them mentally too,” she maintained, adding that the schools who had barred the entry of polio teams would be dealt with strictly.
Speaking to The Express Tribune about the matter, Mallah explained that there were schools in the posh areas of the city that held the belief that polio drops were only for ‘poor’ children. “These schools have a superiority complex,” she asserted, adding that the vaccination drops could safely be administered multiple times.
“The government is usually criticised for not working properly, but why do such people [the elite] not cooperate with government officials?” she asked.
“It’s not a new issue that these elite schools try to stop polio workers,” commented a health department official, adding that they often faced such complaints. “The private school managements should understand the severity of the issue. We have to eradicate the disease once and for all,” he said, appealing to parents and school administrations to allow polio workers to achieve this goal.
Sources told The Express Tribune that not just the school authorities but also the parents of students were refusing to let the health department’s polio teams immunise their children.
“Their [the parents’] response is usually that the children were given the vaccine by the most reputed hospital in the country or were vaccinated outside of Pakistan,” an official explained. “But we need to ensure that all children under the age of five have been administered the vaccine, and for that, everyone must cooperate.”
The seven-day polio drive began on February 10 and will continue till Sunday. A total of 2.3 million children under the age of five will be targeted for immunisation in the city during this time, while another campaign will be launched for the remaining districts of Sindh on Monday, targeting 6.7 million children.
Five new polio cases have been confirmed in Sindh so far this year, while the provincial tally for last year has soared to 30 cases.