The National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) on Thursday suggested that all educational institutions in the country should be reopened with a top to bottom approach (i.e universities first, then colleges, then high schools and so on) and on a rotational basis. As NCOC suggests to reopen all educational institutions, there are speculations about the rise of the second wave of COVID-19.
— Ministry of National Health Services, Pakistan (@nhsrcofficial) August 27, 2020
The suggestion was made during a meeting of the NCOC to discuss the reopening of educational institutions across the country. However, it is clarified that a final decision on reopening of educational institutes will be made on September 7, as earlier intimated by the government.
The meeting was attended by representatives of various educational institutions, including public and private sector institutions and madaris, to reach a consensus-based decision on the opening of various institutions from university to school levels.
All the provincial, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan focal representatives joined the meeting via a video link.
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According to a statement released by the NCOC after the meeting, it has been suggested that the timings of various institutions should be reduced by suspending various activities which involve mass gatherings, including co-curricular activities.
— GNN (@gnnhdofficial) August 27, 2020
All participants were briefed on the current coronavirus situation prevailing globally, regionally and in the country. They were also informed about the risks and challenges involved in the opening of educational institutions as it involved children of all ages.
The educational sector representatives were informed that the NCOC’s suggestions had been finalised after hectic and lengthy consultations with international experts, academia and think tanks, particularly those who had been working on the reopening of the educational sector.
NCOC suggests to reopen all educational institutions, experts agree
Savail M Hussain, a prominent economist and entrepreneur, recently argued that “it is the time to reopen education”. He also maintained that “in a country where even in the best of times almost 22 million children remain out of school, continued school closure will result in an educational and social disaster that will take generations to repair. Governments are risk-averse – and rightly so”. Mr. Hussain also said that “they [governments] must not ignore the evidence that education is amongst the lowest-risk sectors. They must take heart from what the world is doing and what people across Pakistan are telling them. And above all, they must demonstrate leadership for that will determine – in this once in a lifetime crisis – whether Pakistan sinks deeper into the abyss of ignorance and its attendant miseries, or emerges stronger”.
Mr. Hussain also noted: “Of the almost 50 million children in school, two out of every five attend private school. This makes Pakistan one of the few countries in the world where the private sector accounts for such a large proportion of the education system. Over 85 percent of the almost 200,000 private schools that dot the length and breadth of the country are low-cost institutions (fees of Rs2000 per month or less), and most function from rented premises. Therein lies the rub: prolonged closures such as the one we are experiencing mean fee incomes for most low-cost schools dry up, while recurring costs such as teacher salaries and rent continue to pile up.”