Educational institutions in Sindh will remain closed till August 19 in light of increasing coronavirus infections, announced Sindh Education Minister Syed Sardar Ali Shah on Sunday. However, intermediate exams across the province will resume from August 10 (tomorrow), he added.
Addressing a press conference, Shah, who took charge of the department last week replacing now Information, Labour and Human Resources Minister Saeed Ghani, said that schools and colleges in the province may potentially reopen on August 20.
But, he added, a meeting will be held then to review the situation on ground post Ashura and the guidelines issued by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) before a final decision is made. The provincial government had notified the closure of school on July 24 as coronavirus infections spiked across Sindh.
It had, however, stated that examinations would be held as scheduled. Shah's press conference came on the heels of a meeting held by him and Sindh Universities and Board Minister Ismail Rahu with the chairpersons of all district education boards in the province.
The chairpersons of Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Larkana, Sukkur and Shaheed Benazirabad educational boards assured the ministers of their preparedness to resume examinations from tomorrow. The meeting was apprised that two to three exams of Grade XII were yet pending in various districts while Grade XI exams would be held after Ashura.
SOPs, cheating curbs
At the meeting Shah directed the boards' chairpersons to ensure strict implementation of Covid-mandates standard operating procedures (SOPs), including the use of face masks and sanitisers, at examination halls. Moreover, he instructed that measures be taken to curb cheating. Neither students nor invigilators should be permitted mobile phones at the centres, he said.
"The seats of students should be placed keeping in view Covid-SOPs and social distancing," added Rahu, seconding the education minister. The universities and boards minister, who was formerly the irrigation minister and now since the recent cabinet reshuffle also holds the portfolio of the climate change and coastal development department, added that no student should be withheld from giving their exams.
At the subsequent press conference both the ministers asserted that Section 144 of the Pakistan Penal Code would be enforced in the vicinity of the examination centres and action would be taken if anyone is found cheating.
Covid on the rise
Shah pointed out that the positivity ratio in the metropolis had not yet decreased and remained at 23 per cent. He said that the pandemic situation would be monitored, especially in light of the upcoming Muharram holidays.
He voiced concern that if precautions are not taken, the positivity ratio may increase further. Shah added that his department's challenge was two-fold - to not let educational activities be impacted and to protect the people from the virus.
With regards to vaccinations, Shah said that a notification will be issued today (Monday) by his department directing school and college administrations to ensure only inoculated teachers are allowed on the premises. The salaries of government teachers would be withheld if they fail to get the mandatory jabs, he reiterated.
Enhancing educational facilities
Moreover, Shah, who had held the portfolio of the education department prior to Saeed Ghani's tenure and served as the culture, tourism and antiquities minister prior to the Sindh cabinet reshuffle last week, also outlined his approach towards reforms in the education sector.
He regretted that the current curriculum was outdated and said that an overhaul was on the cards. Besides, he acknowledged that the infrastructure of schools needed to be improved and vowed to carry out inspections and due diligence himself. He further assured that teachers would be hired solely on merit.
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