Classrooms to stay open despite Covid surge
Sindh minister says province to decide on status of schools after reviewing pandemic situation
Despite alarming rise in coronavirus cases as a result of the fourth wave of Covid infections, the government on Wednesday decided to keep educational institutions open across the country, except Sindh which is currently under a nine-day lockdown.
The announcement by Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood came as the authorities registered nearly 5,000 new Covid cases on Wednesday with the national positivity ratio hovering above 8%.
Addressing a news conference after chairing a meeting of the Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC), Mahmood said that educational activities would continue in the country with strict implementation of the virus-induced standard operating procedures.
“The government has decided to keep educational institutions open with strict adherence to Covid-19 SOPs,” the education minister said. “All government and private schools will be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity,” he added. “It is important that we look after the educational activities of our children. Also, we do not know how long the pandemic is going to last,” he said.
Read more: Punjab schools to reopen on Monday
He added that the educational institutions in Sindh; however, would remain closed till August 8. Last week, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah announced the lockdown in the province from July 31 till August 8 in order to clamp down on Covid cases, particularly in Karachi.
The provincial government also ordered closure of educational institutions and cancelled the examinations. The IPEMC meeting was attended by the education ministers and relevant officials of all the federating units.
Mahmood said that Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani informed that the province would review the Covid situation before August 8 and decide the next course of action.
Announcing the decisions taken during the IPEMC meeting, the federal education minister said, Punjab, Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Balochistan, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have decided to reopen schools in a staggered manner, with 50% attendance. Mahmood said that examinations would also be conducted throughout the country as per schedule — except in Sindh.
“The exams of classes IX, X, XI, and XII will take place in accordance with their date sheet,” he said, adding 5% grace marks would be given to the students in compulsory subjects.
Simultaneously, Shafqat said, the federal government had already asked the provinces to get all the teachers, students and other staff of the universities to get vaccinated.
“It will be [receiving the vaccine jab] mandatory after August 31.”
“The IPEMC decided to reopen universities and colleges with no restrictions imposed, however, the participants of the meeting expressed concerns over the coronavirus situation in higher education institutions,” he said.
“The overall vaccination in education [sector] has reached 83%, but the inoculations are lagging in higher education institutions which should be ramped up. For this, the education ministers have been urged to make special efforts to get university students and teachers vaccinated.”
Read more: Major cities placed under Covid curbs
The fourth wave of coronavirus pandemic — fuelled by the deadlier and more contagious Delta variant — continues to wreak havoc throughout the country particularly in Sindh. To contain the pandemic spread, the government has already imposed certain Covid restrictions in major cities.
According the minister, the decisions announced on Wednesday would be effective till August 25, when the next education-related meeting would take place. The next meeting would review the pandemic situation and take further action in the regard.
Meanwhile, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), which serves as the nerve centre of the government’s unified effort against the pandemic, said in its daily update that the national positivity ratio reached 8.22% during the past 24 hours. In the last 24 hours, it said, 57,398 tests were carried out for detecting the contagious disease among the masses in the country.
Some 4,722 people tested positive. The forum added that 46 patients died in last 24 hours. In a separate tweet, the NCOC said that the nation managed to administer 1,139,580 doses to the individuals in past 24 hours. The cumulative number of eligible population being vaccinated so far reached 33,059,676, it added.
(WITH INPUT FROM APP)