Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood has said on Friday that a final decision on the reopening of schools will be taken in the NCOC meeting scheduled to take place on January 4. He was talking with the Private Schools Associations delegation, who were called by the government for negotiations after the announcement of the reopening of schools from January 11.
Inter-provincial Education Ministers conference will take place on Jan 4, 2021. Among other agenda points the most important would be an analysis of the health situation to determine re-opening of educational institutions
— Shafqat Mahmood (@Shafqat_Mahmood) December 25, 2020
Shafqat Mahmood was accompanied by the parliamentary secretary, while the private schools’ delegation included Afzal Babar, Hafeez Bisharat, Abrar Khan and Nasir Mahmood. The delegation appealed to the government to understand the problems being faced by the private schools association.
Shafqat Mahmood said that the government is mulling over to reduce this year’s summer vacations and postponement of examinations scheduled in March, but the final approval would be given by the NCOC.
It is to be noted that the Private Schools Supreme Council announced had announced to reopen educational institutions from January 11.
Addressing a press conference, office-bearers of the council had demanded that the government announce the reopening of schools from January 11. Even if it doesn’t do so, they said they would reopen schools on that date under the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
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”.
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.