The government has decided to extend the closure of schools – classes I to VIII – in the districts most affected by the coronavirus till the 28th of this month, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood announced after chairing a meeting attended by the provincial health and education ministers on Tuesday.
The minister told the media that classes IX to XII would resume from April 19, even in the most-affected districts with strict adherence to the precautionary standard operating procedures (SOPs), while the board exams would be held from the third week of May.
“These classes [I to VIII] can take place online but there will be no physical presence during the sessions,” he said. “It is the prerogative of the provinces to decide as to which of their districts are most affected and require strict measures.”
The decisions were taken in a meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) – the government’s unified effort against the pandemic. Mahmood said that the NCOC would review the situation on April 28.
The coronavirus first emerged in the country in February 2020. The virus started declining in July but the cases spiked towards the end of the year. However, in March, the situation aggravated with more than 4,000 new cases a day, dubbed by the experts as the third wave.
Keeping in view the deteriorating situation, the government has taken several measures, including closure of schools in the virus hotspots, a ban on wedding functions, indoor dining at hotels and restraints, reduced timing for commercial activities etc.
Mahmood said that classes IX to XII had been allowed so that the students could prepare for their exams. “The board exams will be held this year, but they will not begin before the third week of the next month [May 24],” he added.
To a question, the minister said that 13 districts of Punjab had been designated as pandemic-affected, adding that the provinces would take the decision regarding the affected districts. The universities would also remain closed in the affected districts, he added.
About the ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level exams, the minister said that these would be held as per schedule. The minister told reporters that the universities would be requested to push back entrance exams and delay their admissions.
At the NCOC meeting on Tuesday, two issues were discussed – whether educational institutions continue their classes or the exam schedule. Mahmood said that around four million students across the country would appear in the board exams.
He added that another 85,000 students were scheduled to appear for the ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level exams. “The number of students is quite less [as compared to the ones appearing for the board exams] and in our discussion with Cambridge, they assured us that the SOPs will be strictly followed,” the minister said. (WITH INPUT FROM NEWS DESK)
Education/Health Ministers of Pakistan unanimously made following decisions at NCOC today: 1) In districts affected by corona classes from 1 till 8th will remain closed till 28th April. 2) In these districts classes 9th till 12th will resume in a staggered manner from April 19th— Shafqat Mahmood (@Shafqat_Mahmood) April 6, 2021
The meeting was attended by education and health ministers to deliberate about the reopening of the educational institutions.
In the Education Ministers conference today it was also decided unanimously that all exams will take place. A/ AS and O level date sheets have already been announced. Classes 9 to 12 exam dates will be announced by respective boards but will be after Eid— Shafqat Mahmood (@Shafqat_Mahmood) April 6, 2021
In view of the third wave of coronavirus in Pakistan, on March 10, the government ordered closure of all schools in Covid-19 hotspots for two weeks from March 15.
Decisions regarding exams are final. Students should start preparing and working hard. This decision will not be changed so no one should have any uncertainty in their mind. Everything has been done keeping interest of education in mind. My very best wishes to everyone— Shafqat Mahmood (@Shafqat_Mahmood) April 6, 2021