Sindh education minister Saeed Ghani on Friday announced that the reopening of schools for sixth, seventh and eighth graders is being delayed over fears of the spread of COVID-19 as educational institutes have been observed to have failed in enforcing safety protocols.
Ghani said that students from these grades will be asked to rejoin school on September 28, subject to if the COVID-19 situation improves. He said in this period, the provincial government will see how the following of SOPs can be better enforced.
“Our purpose is not to shut down schools permanently […] we simply seek for them to mend their ways when we see they are not fulfilling their responsibility. They should follow through with the commitments made.
“And the following of safety protocols is not to be done for our satisfaction. Our children go to these schools. It is a question of their health and safety,” the education minister underscored.
Ghani said that children’s health cannot be gambled away for the sake of saving the losses incurred by schools and for the sake of recovering the loss of learning for children that has accumulated since the outbreak.
The minister said that the decision will be reviewed before September 28. “I will get in touch with the federal ministers and will request a meeting of the inter-provincial education ministers committee so that a uniform decision is taken across the country.”
Ghani also requested the media to spread awareness and “sensitise” parents, children and the public in general, to properly follow COVID-19 prevention measures.
“We want schools to reopen but when they do, we should be free of any worry that if they do go to school they will not be so exposed to the risk of catching any illness.”
The education minister said that government schools, although were not taking full precautions, “the situation was much better there”.
“At the same time I will say, not all private schools performed poorly in abiding by the rules. I came away quite impressed by some of them [in the way protocols were followed]. I was very satisfied. Some, however, were completely violating safety protocols,” Ghani said.
He said that keeping in view such brazen violation, four schools were sealed yesterday, of which three are “probably not even registered”.
The education minister said that between September 12 and 17, “14,544 tests were carried out of which some 11,000 reports are still pending”. He was referring to a question posed by a journalist asking about the 88 new cases of COVID-19 found in school teachers.
To a question of why the PPP chairman was “taking out rallies” at a time when the coronavirus situation is so precarious, Ghani clarified that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari simply visited flood-affected areas, such as Mirpurkhas and Hyderabad.
“This was also an important task. He did not take out any rallies.”
“Yes, marketplaces and cinemas are open, rallies and religious processions were carried out. But you have a choice in the matter. When it comes to schools, many children simply do not have the choice to not attend.
“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 him,” he stressed.
In a meeting of the provincial education ministers earlier this month, it was decided that a phase-wise reopening of schools starting September 15, would be carried out.
The ministers, according to sources, proposed that the schools would open in phases starting with Grade 9 and up, as well as all universities, on September 15, which then were reopened as scheduled.
Classes 6th to 8th were to resume on September 21. Pre-primary and primary classes have been scheduled to resume on September 30.
Earlier today, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) said 10 educational institutions in KP and three in Sindh have been shut down for flouting the standard operating procedures laid down by the government to safeguard against the spread of COVID-19.
In the last 24 hours, 752 new coronavirus infections have been reported across the province, besides nine deaths.
Pvt schools association demands Ghani’s resignation
Meanwhile, Private Schools Action Committee Chairman Pervez Haroon slammed the decision to delay school reopening and demanded that Ghani resign from his post.
“Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah should enforce the decisions made by the National Command and Operations Centre and the federal government,” he said.
Haroon said that the act of shutting down all schools wasn’t justified due to the negligence of a “few”. He claimed that several schools in Karachi were implementing the prescribed safety measures.
“An emergency meeting of the action committee has been called and a protest will be held at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday,” he said.