Education minister claims decision taken unanimously despite Balochistan government urging for two-week delay
The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) on Tuesday “unanimously” decided to reopen primary schools from tomorrow (Wednesday), claiming the COVID-19 situation was “under control.”
Addressing media after a meeting of the NCOC in Islamabad, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood claimed the decision had been taken after consultations with all federating units, including Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. He did not mention Balochistan, despite spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani on Monday telling media that the province wanted to delay reopening primary schools for two weeks in light of a recent surge in coronavirus infections.
“We took the decision after we saw 0.8% positive rate after reopening educational institutes in the country,” Mahmood said, adding authorities would continue to monitor the situation and any institutions that were not implementing preventative guidelines would be dealt with sternly. He claimed that since Sept. 15, authorities had conducted 170,436 tests for COVID-19 in educational institutions, adding that 1,284 of those had returned positive. “In view of this data,” he said, “we have decided to reopen primary classes.”
The education minister sought to assure parents that the government had decided to reopen schools after meticulous research and inspection. He claimed it was only through the collective effort of parents, administrators and teachers that the government was able to take the decision.
Stressing upon the need to adhere to the SOPs, he said that young children cannot take care of themselves properly so wearing of face-mask and density of classrooms should be carefully monitored.
Pakistan started a phased reopening of educational institutions from Sept. 15, with higher education and grades 9-10 returning to campus first. A week later, on Sept. 22, students of 6-8 grades returned to classrooms apart from Sindh, which decided to delay the decision by a week.