Sindh to go ahead with reopening schools despite health minister’s warning

Web Desk – September 24, 2020

Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani on Thursday directed relevant authorities to ensure implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for Covid-19 as he announced that both lower secondary and primary classes will resume on September 28.

The order came despite Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho’s warning against the opening of schools this month.

In a conversation with Geo News earlier today, Pechuho said it would be “unwise” to reopen schools at this point, saying she “does not want to take a chance with kids”.

The provincial health minister revealed that positivity rate in Sindh had increased from 1.5 per cent to 3pc. “A second wave of coronavirus has been predicted in the current situation,” she added.

Expressing reservations on the reopening of schools, Dr Pechuho said: “Do not rush to reopen primary schools. They must be given at least one to one-and-a-half month to reopen.”

“It would be right to send children to school only when the [coronavirus] situation is clear,” she said, adding that the decision to resume classes was being taken “in haste”.

Middle schools reopen

Earlier this week, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) allowed schools across the country to resume in-person classes for grades six to eight from Sept 23 as per schedule.

However, Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani said schools in the province would reopen on Sept 28.

Earlier this month, millions of students in Pakistan returned to classes as educational institutions reopened after a break of six months. In the first phase, all higher education institutions including universities, professional colleges, vocational institutes, as well as classes nine till 12 resumed on Sept 15.

Classes six to eight resumed from Sept 23 in phase two while primary students are set to return to schools on Sept 30.

But tens of educational institutions were closed soon after across the country over violation of standard operating proce­dures (SOPs) and detection of Covid-19 cases among some students, teachers and other staff.

As a result, Sindh government announced a week’s delay in implementing phase two, with students of grades six to eight being asked to start schools on Sept 28. Education minister Ghani said the decision was taken after he observed schools were not fully following coronavirus health guidelines.

WHO fears resurgence

The World Health Organisation has expressed concern about non-observance of standard operating procedures relating to prevention of Covid-19 in educational institutes and has called for adherence to social distancing, hand-washing and wearing mask along with infection prevention measures in schools to stay safe from the pandemic.

WHO officials told Dawn that continuation of educational activities without precautionary measures could snowball into resurgence of coronavirus, which was presently on the decline.

They said that it was observed that there was lack of coordination between education and health departments regarding the implementation of SOPs. They added that WHO had already warned against complacency with regard to safety measures against Covid-19.

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