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Pakistan Considers Reopening Schools With SOPs

by Newsweek Pakistan

File Photo. Hasham Ahmed—AFP

Education minister says proposals have been sought from madrassas and private institutions across Pakistan

The Government of Pakistan is considering allowing educational institutions to reopen under standard operating procedures (SOPs) that will curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said on Monday, as confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to surge nationwide.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Mahmood said the government had sought suggestions on how to implement and enforce SOPs from madrassas and private educational institutions across Pakistan, including in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.

He said his ministry had scheduled a meeting with the Ministry of Health to discuss the potential reopening of schools, adding that any decisions taken would be done so after examining relevant data provided by the National Command and Operation Center. The education ministry, he added, was collaborating with UNICEF to consult other countries that had reopened schools with SOPs. “Consultations with UNICEF are also currently underway on the government’s existing policy,” he said.

“We want to end uncertainty on a basic, important issue like education,” he said.

Pointing to a Gallup Pakistan survey that was unveiled on Monday, the minister said around 70 percent of parents had said they were willing to send their children to school despite the pandemic. He said that the government might soon take parents into confidence on its plans to reopen educational institutions through a press conference or media briefing.

Pakistan shut down all educational institutions in March after the first cases of COVID-19 emerged in the country. Subsequent lockdowns resulted in businesses and industries being similarly locked down to curb the spread of the deadly virus. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s disdain for lockdowns has resulted in most restrictions being lifted, but educational institutions have yet to be reopened.

Private schools’ organizations have in recent weeks protested for the right to be allowed to resume operations, with administrators saying they cannot afford to keep teachers on staff much longer if they are not educating anyone during this time.

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