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The educational institutions in Pakistan will begin reopening in phases from next week following a fall in new coronavirus case numbers, officials said, ending a long closure that led to exam cancellations and threw students' grades into chaos.
The decision was taken during a meeting of Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC), chaired by the Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood. Ministry of Health officials also briefed the meeting participants.
The Higher Education Commission's (HEC) chairperson and executive director, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, and officials of the health department were also present at the IPEMC, which aimed to compile the final recommendations regarding the opening of educational institutes.
The recommendations would be sent to the National Command Operation Centre (NCOC) for further deliberations among all the stakeholders.
Higher education institutions and senior school classes will reopen on Sept.15, class six till eight will open again on Sept.23, and on Sept.30 primary classes will reopen, Mahmood told a news conference.
"It is a difficult decision, as it involves the future of children, it was not an easy decision to make," Mahmood said, adding that success will only be achieved when parents and teachers play their role.
Punjab Minister for School Education Dr Murad Raas said schools in the province would reopen in phases from Sept.15.
He said that schools in Punjab would open in phases with students in class nine and 10 returning on Sept.15, students in class six to eight returning on Sept.22 while those in class nursery to five will return to school on Sept.30.
Raas said no double shifts would be allowed while all schools would follow the alternative day schedule according to which 50 per cent of total students would come to school one day while the remaining 50pc would attend the next day.
Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani said that the sub-committee of the steering committee for education had recommended that schools in the province be opened phase-wise from Sept.15.
"If the final decision is to open educational institutions on Sept.15, then classes nine and above should be opened in the first phase and one week after that on Sept.21, classes six to eight be opened and one week after that, that is Sept.28, the classes from pre-primary to five should be opened so that if any cases of COVID-19 come up during this time, we can control it immediately,” the committee recommended.
The South Asian country has recorded 298,903 cases of COVID-19 and nearly 6,345 deaths but has seen a slowing of numbers since June, when it recorded nearly 7,000 infections and 118 deaths in single day.
On Sunday, 394 people tested positive for COVID-19 and three deaths were reported.
Explaining there is a need to lessen the density of students in classes, Faisal Sultan, the prime minister’s health adviser, said that if there are 40 students in a class, it should be divided in equal batches attending school on alternate days.
Speaking to reporters, Sultan requested all parents to ensure face masks for children. A surgical mask is not necessary, as even a mask made of cloth will do, he said.
The education minister warned punitive action against educational institution not following precautionary measures.
Early last month, Pakistan opened gyms, salons and restaurants dine-in for the first time in five months after being closed down to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Students in Abu Dhabi will return to schools on Jan.17, as the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee, in coordination with Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, has approved remote learning for the first two weeks of the new school term.
Federal officials said the government has decided to conduct exams of students only in grade V and VIII. They added that the director general of the federal directorate of education has sent a summary to the relevant authorities in this regard.
Government and private schools following the curriculum of the Ministry of Education, kindergartens and adult education likely received more than 1,119,000 students on Sunday.
To provide parents, students and staff members in private schools in Dubai with an effective and convenient mechanism to address COVID-19 related queries, the Dubai Health Authority has launched a dedicated 24/7 back-to-school helpline at phone number 800588.
The launch of this service reinforces the authority’s commitment to provide effective communication channels to the community, offering timely and accurate health information.
Sheikh Mohammed tweeted, “Today, we concluded the Arab Reading Challenge competition in its fifth session… Despite the Corona pandemic, 21 million students participated with us in 96 thousand schools from 52 countries…"
The case dates back to last February, when reliable information was forwarded to the Anti-Narcotics Department at Dubai Police about a person consuming narcotics and psychotropic substances and possessing a quantity of them in his house in the Palm Island area in Dubai.
The story did not end here but developed from rape into drugs and the victim ended up at the hands of Dubai Police who referred her to the Hemaya International Centre of Dubai Police’s General Department of Anti-narcotics for rehabilitation.