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COVID-19: Meeting underway to decide closure of schools in Pakistan

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Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood will chair the meeting of education ministers today. File photo

ISLAMABAD: An important meeting was underway at the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) to review the latest COVID-19 situation and decide about the closure of schools and early winter vacations in light of the rising infections among students and their teachers.

Federal Planning Minister Asad Umar is chairing the session at the NCOC also attended by SAPM on Health Dr Faisal Sultan and Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood.

The participants will be briefed by the national health services ministry and NCOC about the pandemic-related situation in the country.

After the NCOC meeting, the education ministers will meet and mull the recommendations before taking the final decision.

Shafqat Mahmood on Sunday said that “all decisions” pertaining to the closure of schools amid rising coronavirus cases in Pakistan will be announced on Monday.

“To all those eagerly awaiting the outcome of tomorrow’s inter provincial education ministers meeting: I will be holding a press conference at 12:30pm after the conclusion of the meeting,” he wrote.

The government has yet to decide whether in the backdrop of the second wave of coronavirus cases schools should be closed again.

A day earlier, Mahmood had said that his ministry would propose the closure of schools from November 25 in the next meeting of the country’s education ministers.

The Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC) was held last Monday to review the worsening coronavirus situation in the country but could not take a decision regarding closure of schools and deferred the matter till the next meeting.

Speaking in Geo News programme “Jirga” on Saturday, Mahmood said: “A meeting of all the education ministers will be held on November 23.”

“We are recommending online education,” he said, adding that teachers will come to schools and will stay in touch with students.

Mahmood said that at those educational institutes where facilities for online education are not available, students would come to school one day and take their homework.

What Punjab is saying

Punjab Education Minister Murad Raas has said that he will take a “sensible” decision regarding the province’s educational institutions, as “lives matter the most”.

As the coronavirus cases rise and the government mulls strategies to curb the virus’ spread, the education minister said that he would make a decision based on data.

“Lives matter the most. Zero pressure on me from either side. Sensible decisions have to be made,” the minister added.

“If I close the schools people are not happy. If I keep the schools open people are not happy. Let me just inform everyone that decision will be made on DATA that is being given to me,” Raas said in a tweet.

What Sindh is saying

Sindh is against early closure of schools.

The Sindh Education and Literacy Department decided not to close schools for the time being or have any winter vacations at all this year, it had emerged, after key stakeholders in the provincial education sector met with Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani in the chair.

Ghani, after the meeting, said that the Sindh Education Department’s decision represented the province’s position and that a national decision on the matter would ultimately be taken on November 23, when representatives of all provinces are to meet and debate the issue.

It was further decided in the meeting that students will not be promoted again without them sitting for examinations.

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