Private school owners and teachers' unions have opposed the government's decision of keeping schools closed in nine districts of Punjab, complaining that they were not consulted on the matter.
While the government school teachers' union expressed concern over the impact of the decision on the education of children from poor families and private school owners. The government had not offered any support package for the sector despite the closure of thousands of schools in the province. Earlier, the private schools and government school teachers usually differed over academic issues.
Following a decision of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), Punjab government decided to close schools in nine districts of the province till April 11. Schools in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan, Sargodha, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Sialkot, Gujrat, and Faisalabad will be closed.
In view of an increase in the number of coronavirus cases, the Punjab government decided to close the schools in the nine big districts where most cases have been reported during the third wave of the pandemic.
Following a meeting of NCOC held on March 10, schools are already closed in Punjab from March 15 to 28.
According to the NCOC, the decision about reopening the schools will be taken on April 11.
It was decided that the exams of classes nine to 12 will be held according to the schedule.
All provincial education ministers participated in the NCOC meeting and discussed the prevailing situation of coronavirus.
It was decided that the school administrations in the nine districts facing restrictions will be allowed to call the staff for duty.
Punjab School Education Minister Sardar Murad Raas tweeted, "We will not put in danger the life of students and their parents so deciding to close schools in nine districts. All other schools in other districts will remain open following SOPs."
The minister said it was a difficult decision to keep the schools closed but "we did it in public interest".
However, private school owners opposed the decision and claimed that it was not in the interest of the students.
"Our around 10,000 schools have already shut down and now more schools will be closed as the government is not taking into consideration our financial issues," said Kashif Adeeb Jawdani, president of All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association.
"Government is not offering any financial package for private schools. We are demanding that the government immediately start vaccination in schools in all coronavirus-hit districts if it is really sincere with the education sector," he added.
On the other hand, parents supported the government decision and said nothing was more important than the lives of their children.
"Deaths are being reported daily and hundreds of patients are coming to hospitals. We support the government's decision of closing the schools but also request the school owners to give relief in fees. All private school owners have increased the fees despite the parents' difficulties.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2021.
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