Primary, middle schools opening date extended till Feb 1 to ensure safety of children: Shafqat

ISLAMABAD: The federal Government on Friday extended the date for reopening of primary and middle schools (Class 1-8) from January 25 to February 1 after scrutiny of current Covid-19 situation in order to ensure safety of students.

Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood announced the decision at a press conference after a detailed meeting with provincial education and health ministers and secretaries at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).

The members of the committee had thoroughly reviewed the current Covid-19 situation in the country before formally announcing the decision on the reopening of educational institutions across the country, he explained.

He clarified that the second wave of the pandemic  is being considered as more lethal than the first one, and had forced the closure of educational institutions in order to protect students and teachers.

In his briefing to media, Shafqat Mahmood said the government’s prior decision will be followed regarding reopening of high- and intermediate-level schools (9-12) from January 18, while universities will reopen from February 1.

“This year no student will be promoted without examinations”, he added.

He said the government would again review the pandemic situation during the next week prior to opening of primary schools on 1st February. In the meeting, further decisions will be taken keeping in view positivity ratio in cities, he added.

“Everyone is concerned about the loss of education during the previous lockdown but we have to strike a balance so as to ensure the safety of students,” Mehmood said, adding the current positivity rate has come down to 6.10%, which was 7.14% when the educational institutes were shut down on November 26.

The number of coronavirus cases, he said, were still increasing in the country and added the education sector had faced huge loss due to pandemic during the last eight months.

“One thing is clear: all those associated with education in politics or the government realise that learning levels of children has been severely affected because of the closure of schools,” Mehmood said.

“But health is important too,” the education minister said, emphasising that the need of the hour is to keep a balance between continuing education and minimising the risk to students.

Shafqat said the infection in major urban centers was still higher, therefore in the next week, NCOC would decide about re-opening of educational institutions in high risk cities.

“While I desperately want education to continue, the final decision will be on health grounds. Students’ well being will always be a priority,” Mehmood wrote on Twitter.

He said currently average deaths had been counted 44 per day as compared to 46 few days back. The daily cases average in the country was around 2300 as compared to 3000 few days back, added.

He further informed that the critical patients in the country have increased from 1958 to 2339.

Mehmood’s remarks come as Pakistan battles a second wave of the coronavirus with cases constantly on the rise.

According to the latest statistics, confirmed cases due to Covid-19 pandemic in the country currently stand at 514,338, while the recorded deaths stand at 10,863. A total of 469,306 recoveries from the infections have been reported so far.

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