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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Pakistan should reopen educational institutions. Here is why.

According to the latest official reports, children account for less than one percent of infections and the chance of anyone under the age of 15 dying from Covid is 1 in 3.5 million. So, should Pakistan reopen schools?

The government of Pakistan is about to decide the future of educational institutions across the country in the midst of COVID-19 outbreak. There are unconfirmed reports suggesting reopening of the universities after persistent demands from the private sector. GVS editors collected data from across the world to assess whether or not Pakistan should reopen educational institutions.

Notably, a recent Gallup Poll in Pakistan has 74 percent of respondent parents in favor of school reopening.

According to the latest data, the death toll from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country has climbed to 4,473 as 78 more people died of the highly contagious disease in the past 24 hours.

According to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), 4,339 new infections were detected after 22,128 tests were conducted in the previous 24 hours, taking the national tally of cases to 217,808.

More than 1.3 million tests have been conducted in the country while 108,642 COVID-19 patients are undergoing treatment and 104,694 patients have recuperated from the disease.

Read More: Educational institutions in Sindh to remain closed till March 13

86,795 cases have been detected in Sindh so far, 77,740 in Punjab, 26,938 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 10,608  in Balochistan, 13, 082 in Islamabad, 1,135 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and 1,511 in Gilgit Baltistan.

The number of coronavirus cases across the world has surpassed over 10.6 million while the pandemic has so far claimed more than 514,628 lives.

Did other countries reopen schools?

It is important to note that the available data suggests that the morality rate in young people is ‘statistically insignificant’. A study conducted by Cambridge University statisticians shows that the chance of anyone under the age of 15 dying from Covid is 1 in 3.5 million. It means the probability of being struck by lightning is 1 in 700,000.

Read More:  Educational institutes to remain closed for 2 days in Punjab

Prof Herman Goosens, the coordinator of an EU Task Force on Covid-19, has recently found that children account for less than one percent of infections. Interestingly, recent evidence from Germany, Denmark, Finland and France, where schools have reopened, is ‘instructive’. No statistical correlation has been found between the reopening of schools and the Ro or infection rate in these countries going forward. Nor did significant infection clusters emerge in communities where schools have reopened or in schools themselves. Prof Goosens’ advice is to bring children back to school. This is echoed by the executive director of Unicef, who wrote, ‘‘the risks of keeping schools closed outweigh the health risks caused by the pandemic.’’

Why should Pakistan reopen educational institutions?

Analysts in Pakistan are suggesting the government to reopen educational institutions in order to ensure that private schools, colleges and universities do not go bankrupt. A country already struggling to deal with an unprecedented economic recession may not be in a position to give any bailout package to schools dealing with economic repercussions as a result of the deadly pandemic.

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”.

Read More: Pakistan’s Educational Assistance to Afghans

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.”

The facts as presented above make a case for reopening educational institutions with strict implementation of SOPs as outlined by WHO and the government of Pakistan.