Provincial education minister says grades 6-8 will now resume classes from Sept. 28 to ensure SOP implementation
The Sindh government has decided to delay the resumption of in-person classes for students of sixth through eighth grades till Sept. 28 over concerns that lax implementation of safety measures will boost the spread of COVID-19, provincial education minister Saeed Ghani announced on Friday.
Addressing a press conference in Karachi, he said that the extra week would allow the government to observe the implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) in higher education institutions and fix gaps. “Our purpose is not to shut down schools permanently … we just want them to ensure they follow through with the commitments [on SOPs],” he said. “The adoption of SOPs is not for our satisfaction. Our children go to these schools and this is a question of their health and safety,” he added.
Stressing that children’s health could not be endangered to prevent schools from incurring financial losses or to curb the “learning gap” from the six months the schools were shut down. He said the provincial government would consult with federal ministers before Sept. 28 in the hope that a uniform decision could be taken on schools.
Ghani also requested the media to raise awareness among parents, children and the general public to continue following COVID-19 prevention measures. He said that currently government schools were faring better than private institutions but added that he had been “quite impressed” by the protocols in place in some of them.
“When a child has to go to school, it is the government’s responsibility as well as that of parents to decide what is better for them,” he said.
Reacting to the Sindh government’s decision, federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said there had been no change to the reopening schedule. “We will meet in the NCOC on Sept. 22 to decide finally but if the current trend remains, no reason to postpone 6-8 opening on Sept. 23,” he posted on Twitter. As outrage over his apparently apathy to children’s health mounted he posted once again in a bid to justify his comment.
“Health of students is our first priority and any decision we make will be guided by the advice of Health Ministry. Having said that 6 months closure deeply affected the students. Decision to open was taken with great care. Any hasty decision to close will destroy education,” he claimed.
Under the federal government’s plan, educational institutions were to reopen over three weeks, with higher education and grades 9-12 having commenced in-person classes from Sept. 15. In the second phase, grades 6-8 were to resume classes from Sept. 21 and in the final phase, primary classes would commence from Sept. 30.