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Reopening of schools: Shafqat Mehmood to chair education ministers’ meeting today

Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood. File photo

KARACHI: Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood will chair the Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC) today to decide the reopening of schools in the country.

The federal government, on the recommendation of the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC), had closed educational institutions from November 26, 2020 to January 10, 2021.

Under that plan, schools were to reopen on January 11. But the rising spread of the novel coronavirus across the country has cast a shadow on that decision with federal and provincial education ministers saying that it was “unlikely” educational institutions would be allowed to reopen.

The final decision regarding the reopening of schools would be taken after advice from the health ministry on the matter. All the provincial ministers would attend the meeting via video link.

The IPEMC would deliberate reopening educational institutions in phases. In the first phase, the primary level students would head back to school on January 25. The second phase would see middle schools reopening by February 4 and the higher education institutions would start by February 15 in the third phase.

According to details, it has been proposed to delay school and board examinations till the last week of May or early June. The summer vacations would be shortened with the new academic year beginning in August.

The IPEMC meeting agenda

  • Health updates on all provinces/regions by the national health services ministry
  • Reopening of educational institutions
  • School and education board exams slated to be held in May-June 2021
  • Reduction in spring and summer vacation and the start of the 2021-22 academic session
  • Implementation status of the Council of Common Interest’s decision on the transfer of the existing NCHD and BECS schools, and the proposed national education policy.

It may be noted here that although education is a provincial matter, under the 18th Amendment, the provinces adopted Centre’s policy owing to a Supreme Court decision directing for a uniformed policy to tackle the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

It may be added here that private schools associations across the country have opposed keeping schools shut.

On Thursday, a private school council demanded the government reopen schools on January 11 as planned and also sought an economic relief package. “The government should suspend the registration fee and taxes for a year.”

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