Pandemic Leaves Education in Limbo in Pakistan
Markets and malls across Pakistan are open for business and brimming with people, but schools and colleges remain deserted and show no signs of reopening soon.
The boom in business activity has come because the South Asian country of over 210 million disregards surging coronavirus cases to the barge with plans to ease lockdown measures.
Inter-city travel, including domestic flights, is additionally learning pace before the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the top of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
Critics have denounced this return to normalcy as hasty and inadvisable, mainly since the country has recorded quite 1,000 cases a day in May, with just one exception.
However, while business activity is resuming across the country, there’s still little clarity on the longer term of educational activity, as doubts still swirl over an expected resumption by mid-July.
Government officials and education experts fear that schools might not reopen for an additional six months, particularly in remote areas where safety guidelines, especially hygiene and social distancing rules, are hard to implement.
“It’s a challenging task for the govt to reopen schools and colleges during this coronavirus pandemic, but the pressure is increasing a day,” Professor Mughees Uddin Sheikh, a Lahore-based educationist told Anadolu Agency.
“We never anticipated anything like this; it’s more than a war-like situation. Is our education system equipped to deal with? The answer is no.”
Across the country, high school students are promoted to subsequent classes without taking regular examinations, and admissions to high schools are going to be granted on the idea of the previous year’s results.
While many universities and schools have started online classes, a majority of educational institutes in Pakistan don’t have the system for distance learning, consistent with Sheikh.
“Only a couple of universities have proper virtual education facilities. Others are partially equipped. Many teachers aren’t even trained,” said Sheikh, who heads the media and communication department at a university in Lahore.
No definite timeline
Saeed Ghani, education minister for the southern Sindh province, said schools could remain closed for up to 6 months thanks to the danger of coronavirus spreading among children.
“We cannot take such a risk in the current circumstances. It [reopening of schools] totally depends on the pace of the epidemic. I am not during a position to mention if schools will reopen [even] on July 15,” Ghani told Anadolu Agency.
“As of today, I can say there are not any chances of faculties reopening soon. It may be a month or two, or even six.”
“Our adults aren’t following necessary precautions. How can you expect that from children?” he said, pertaining to the large number of shoppers seen in markets and shopping centers over recent days, many not following any safety measures.
Partially endorsing Ghani’s view, Sheikh said, “In the given circumstances, schools being closed until September-October is understandable. But if it goes beyond that, then next year’s sessions and examinations will be affected too.”
Health experts have also cautioned against reopening schools too quickly.
“It is going to be a hazardous and dangerous step if schools are opened at this stage. We strongly oppose this,” Dr. Qaisar Sajjad, Secretary-General of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), told Anadolu Agency.
“We have a limited number of children’s hospitals in Pakistan. If, God forbid, there’s an epidemic among children, we cannot be ready to handle it. There is not any justification to right away reopen schools.”
However, Haider Ali, chairman of the Private Schools and Colleges Association, doesn’t accept as real with the choice to stay schools closed, contending that children reception or within the streets were at higher risk.
“The risk factor doubles if children stay out of faculties for an extended period. On the one hand, they’re susceptible to depression and anxiety thanks to being confined to their houses, while on the opposite, they’re going to lag in their studies,” he said.
“The situation is worse in slums and rural areas, where children are playing within the streets but not getting to school. Schools, at least, have a controlled atmosphere and may implement safety guidelines.”
Professor Anwar Ahmed Zai, an educationist who heads a personal examination board in Karachi, said the govt and academic institutes need to devise creative ways to dilute the impact of COVID-19.
“Things won’t be an equivalent, whether it is the economy or the education system. We have to reshape our education system and are available up with some alternatives in touch with the impact of the pandemic,” Zai told Anadolu Agency.
Apart from virtual education, he suggested that schools could operate in shifts of lesser duration to ensure social distancing.
“It won’t be a perfect situation, but we’ve to explore our options. We have to measure with this virus for a minimum of the approaching few years,” said Zai.
Sharing the same view, Sheikh suggested the formation of a “capsule curriculum” alongside a shift-based system.
“Apart from the apparent miseries, this pandemic also presents some opportunities for developing countries like ours. We have a chance to rethink and reshape our education system to meet the needs of the post-pandemic world,” he said.
Ghani, the minister, said his province’s Department of Education was already preparing a web curriculum and dealing with other models to ensure children’s education could continue during these uncertain times.
Courtesy: Anadolu Agency