Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood has announched that schools will reopen for students of 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade on January 18, 2020. The opening of primary schools has been pushed to February 1, while universities will also reopen on February 1 as scheduled earlier.
The Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC) and the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) held a meeting today to review the COVID-19 situation and decide whether to reopen educational institutions in Pakistan as scheduled. A meeting was also held on Thursday, but no decision was taken.
In a press briefing following Friday’s meeting, Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood said that while the COVID-19 statistics of the country were lower than they were when education institutes were were closed, the numbers were still considerably high.
Acknowledging the health risks, he said that further meetings may be held before the February 1 reopening of primary and higher education institutes is confirmed. The education minister also said that the NCOC might reconsider school reopening dates in different cities based on their COVID-19 statistics.
He stated that as the government has announced that no 9th to 12th graders would be promoted to higher grades without examinations, as was done last year, it is necessary for the students to resume offline classes.
Students of classes 1 to 8, who were earlier scheduled to rejoin school on January 25, will now go to school on February 1.
Earlier, the IPEMC on January 4 had announced the reopening of educational institutions in phases, starting from January 18.
The federal government, on the recommendation of the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC), had closed educational institutions on November 26, 2020 till January 10, 2021. They were scheduled to reopen on January 11. However, due to the rise of coronavirus cases across the country, it was decided to start distant learning instead of reopening educational institutions. The IPEMC further decided to take stock of the situation on January 15 before taking a final decision to reopen institutions.
Although education is a provincial subject, under the 18th Amendment, provinces adopted the centre’s policy on a Supreme Court decision directing for a uniform policy to tackle the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
Private schools across the country opposed the decision to keep them shut, and have been pressing for government authorities to allow students to return to campuses. Many students across the country, however, have been expressing protest against reopening institutes and taking offline examination. On Friday, the hashtags “#ShafqatMehmood” and “#CloseSchoolsNow” were among the top five trends on Twitter.
In a message posted on Twitter on Thursday, Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood had announced that the final decision to reopen educational institutes would be based on health risks for students and staff.
“While I desperately want education to continue, the final decision will be on health grounds,” he had said. “Students’ well-being will always be a priority.”