ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s federal minister for education said on Thursday the government wanted to reopen schools on September 15 if health figures improved, raising hopes that a coronavirus hiatus imposed on education since March might finally end.
Around 22.8 million of Pakistan’s over 70 million children are out of school, according to UNICEF figures. Pakistan’s education ministry has said with schools shuttered due to the virus outbreak, over 50 million school and university-going Pakistanis were at the risk of falling behind.
The rate of coronavirus cases has been rising fast in Pakistan, with 4,983 deaths and 240,848 infections as of Thursday morning.
“We want that if health indicators are better, then we would like to open [schools] on September 15,” Shafqat Mahmood said at a press conference, adding that the government would review coronavirus figures in August and decide whether people were adequately following government-advised safety measures.
He said the government was considering various options on how to safely reopen schools, including that children attend on alternative days, the physical size of the classroom be expanded, and younger and older children come to school during different shifts in the day.
Mahmood requested provincial governments to apprise the central government of the safety measures they wished to implement so that a federal-level policy could be made. He said the provincial governments would be authozied to shut down any institutes that did not follow rules.
Mahmood also said educational institutions could open their administrative offices before September 15 and even call in students and staff for coronavirus safety drills ahead of schools formally reopening.