Students across Pakistan are calling for board and Cambridge O and A-Level exams to be cancelled amid a drastic surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.

“#CancelBoardExams2021” became one of the top trends on Twitter on Saturday, with “#Cambridge” also following behind. In multiple tweets, students were witnessed demanding the government and Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood to cancel physical examinations in light of the third wave of the coronavirus.

“#NoVoteforPTI” became the top trend on Twitter, with students threatening to not vote for the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the future if it does not pay heeds to students’ concerns.

Some students urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to help, as he was their “last hope” after the incompetence of ministers.

“PTI will lose all their youth supporters from local boards and Cambridge if they don’t answer our call for cancellation,” a student wrote.

Lawyer Hassan Niazi, who is also the prime minister’s nephew, urged Shafqat Mehmood to cancel board exams for this year, while media personality Waqar Zaka also lent his voice to the students’ cause through social media.

Cambridge exams cancelled in UAE

Students also questioned why the government is allowing Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE), the UK board that conducts O and A-Level exams in Pakistan, to conduct physical exams when they have been cancelled in the United Kingdom (UK) and in other countries like the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The government had last month reached an agreement with CAIE for exams to be rescheduled to May 10.

In the UAE, all external UK boards have cancelled physical examinations due to COVID-19.

“Following a directive from the Ministry of Education in the UAE, cancelling all international exams, we will work with schools to ensure students entered for the June 2021 exam series can still receive grades using teacher assessment,” Cambridge said in a statement shared with UAE authorities.

Students are demanding that similar action be taken in Pakistan, where exams were also cancelled last year due to rising COVID infections.

Rising COVID-19 cases among children in Pakistan

In Pakistan, COVID-19 infections have seen a rise among children and pre-teens in the third wave of the virus.

At least 40 children between the ages of 1 and 10 have died of COVID-19 in Pakistan, according to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), while 136 people aged between 11 and 20 have so far lost their lives.

“During the first wave we did not admit a single person less than 30 years of age. During the second wave, patients were over 12 years of age but now, during the third wave, we are receiving even infants,” Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Joint Executive Director Dr Minhajus Siraj told Dawn.

At present, at least 393 coronavirus patients are battling for life on ventilators whereas 3,490 critical cases are being treated at hospitals across Pakistan, according to the data released by the NCOC on April 3.

Pakistan reported 4,723 new cases amid an unrelenting third wave of the virus. Over the last 24 hours, 84 people passed away: 45 patients, including eight on ventilators, died in hospitals. Punjab continues to register the greatest number of COVID-19 deaths, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.


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