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Minister for School Closure Shafqat’s Verdict; Till Class 8 Closed, Above Go to School

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood said on Tuesday that there will be no in-person classes for grade 1 to 8 in areas affected by Covid-19 till April 28.

The minister also said that classes of 9, 10, 11 & 12 will be allowed to resume from April 19 so that students can finish the curriculum and be prepared for their exams.

“These classes can take place online but there will be no physical presence during the sessions,” he explained after a meeting at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) to review the situation.

The minister further said that board exams for classes 9, 10 and 11 will be held from the third week of May. Meanwhile, Cambridge exams will be held as per schedule.

He further said that classes from 9 to 12 will continue to take place as usual, with strict adherence to the precautionary SOPs.

“It is the prerogative of the provinces to decide as to which of their districts are the most affected and require strict measures.”

Sindh, the minister added, has already announced the closure of the classes in view of the situation.

“The NCOC will once again review the situation on April 28 and make further decisions,” he maintained.

He added that the meeting deliberated mainly on whether to open the educational institutions that are closed until April 11 and the schedule of the exams.

Shafqat also informed that the universities will be requested to postpone the admissions.

The meeting was attended by education and health ministers to deliberate about the reopening of the educational institutions.

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.

He started off by stating that two main topics were discussed during today’s NCOC meeting. The first was whether educational institutions that have been closed down till April 11 will continue as is or will they be opened, he said.

The second topic of discussion was the schedule for exams, he said, adding that this included exams for grade 9, 10, 11 and 12 as well as those for O and A levels.

“During today’s meeting it was decided that classes for grade 1 to 8 will not be held in districts that are affected [by Covid-19] and this will go on till April 28.”

For example, the Punjab education minister informed the meeting that he has 13 districts that have been affected, he said. “Therefore, in these 13 districts, classes for grade 1 to 8 will not require the physical presence of students,” Mehmood added.

“The provinces will decide which areas are the most affected and where this will be implemented.” The minister said that this decision will be reviewed again on April 28.

Mahmood also said that classes for grade 9, 10, 11 and 12 will be allowed to resume from April 19 in the affected areas with strict standard operating procedures (SOPs). “This means that classes will also resume in affected districts in a staggered manner so that students can complete their lessons and be prepared for their examinations.”

Closing of Schools

Schools and learning centres in Islamabad and several major cities of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been closed since March 15 in light of surging coronavirus cases.

The decision on closures during the third wave of the virus was first taken on March 10 by the NCOC, when it was decided that educational institutions in 10 major cities, including Islamabad, will be given a two-week spring break from March 15 to March 28.

However, as cases continued to rise and spread to more cities in Punjab and KP, the NCOC in a review on March 24 decided to extend the closures till April 11, this time including more cities in the said provinces. At the time, institutes in Balochistan and Sindh were advised to maintain a 50 per cent attendance policy since the incidence of cases was lower in these provinces.

A teacher checks the body temperature of students at a government school in Lahore on September 15, 2020 after the educational institutes were reopened nearly six months after the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP)

Two days ago, the Sindh government also suspended physical classes for grades one till eight in all public and private schools for 15 days starting April 6 (today) in view of the rising incidence of Covid-19 cases in the province.

Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani said schools will be able to continue delivering online classes, or keep the students engaged through homework and other means.

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