Pakistan: No Saturday off or winter vacations once schools reopen from Monday

Islamabad: Though Pakistan’s federal and provincial governments are set to announce a final decision on Monday (September 7) with regards to the reopening of schools from September 15, it has been decided there will be neither an off-day on Saturday, nor the usual 10-day winter vacation in the current academic year.

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Earlier, the federally-run educational institutions were allowed two off-days in a week.

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In Pakistan, all schools, colleges, universities, and madrassas (religious seminaries) have remained closed since February with spikes in coronavirus cases, however now the number of cases dropping significantly has encouraged the authorities to consider opening schools and colleges with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place.

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It has also been decided that in the current academic session 2020-21, winter vacation will be used for remedial classes owing to prolonged school closures for the last six-and-a-half months.

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According to a directive, all the 423 schools and colleges of Islamabad will implement the decision regarding opening of the institutions.

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The Inter-Provincial Education Ministers’ Conference (IPEMC) is meeting on September 7 with Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood in chair to make a final decision in this regard taking into account all the aspects as well as the current situation of coronavirus in the country.

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The directive stated, “In accordance with likelihood of reopening of educational institutions by September 15 (subject to decision by the forum of IPEMC on Sept 7) all heads of educational institutions are advised to plan and design strategies for optimal academic management to ensure the learning losses of students are minimized and students are not only able to cope with the academic pressure in reduced timelines but are also able to meet the expected standards.”

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Compensating for lost time

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The step has been taken to compensate students for the loss of time during the COVID-19 pandemic, stated a senior official of the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) while talking to Gulf News today.

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According to the letter the assessment of the students after reopening of the educational institutions would be used as a benchmark to design courses in place of teaching learning plans.

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The federal government has also directed authorities to review the damage caused by the closure of educational institutions because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Health guidelines/precautionary measures

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On Friday, Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood and PM’s Special Assistant on Health, Dr Faisal Sultan issued a list of precautionary measures that all schools will have to follow when educational institutions reopen.

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The schools as well as the parents will have to adhere to the following instructions after the institutions reopen:

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• Secondary classes will start first after which primary classes will begin.

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• The number of students in a class will be reduced, which means half of the students will attend the session one day and the other half on the other day.

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• Students will have to wear face masks at all times. It’s better if the masks are made at home

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• Social distancing and washing hands should be strictly implemented.

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• Sanitizers to be installed in schools and students should be encouraged to use them repeatedly

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•Every student attending school will have to get tested for coronavirus in two weeks.

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•Students with lower immunity levels should not be sent to school

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•Students will have lunch inside class during breaks.

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• The 423 schools and colleges will not observe the winter vacation to compensate for the loss of students, who could not attend classes since March 15.

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