Educational institutions in Pakistan on Tuesday (September 15) welcomed back the first batch of students in a phased reopening after a six-month break due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Students of secondary and higher classes returned to school under the stage-wise plan for resumption of educational activities. In the next phase, lower secondary school students will return from Sept. 23, while primary classes will resume from Sept. 30.
The educational institutions were closed on March 13 at the start of the outbreak initially for three weeks. However, the closure was extended in view of the worsening pandemic situation.
The resumption of classes is taking place amid fears of a second wave of the pandemic and concerns about adherence to the precautionary measures by the students, especially younger ones.
Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter to reassure the worried parents that government would ensure their safety.
“It is our priority & collective responsibility to ensure that every child can go to school safely to learn. We have worked to ensure that school operations are aligned with public health safety rules on #COVID19,” Khan tweeted.
The government has issued a 27-page document containing guidelines for the return of the students. The measures include social distancing, handwashing, face coverings and improved ventilation.
The guidelines also call for screening, testing and continuous monitoring in educational institutes. Students and their parents have also been advised to do self-screening and remain at home if they feel sick or have symptoms.
On the first day, good attendance was noticed with most students observing the safety protocols and schools conducting temperature screening of them.
Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood visited schools in Islamabad to monitor adherence to safety measures. In a video message, he urged cooperation of everyone to ensure students’ safety and warned that disregard for the protocols could lead to resurgence of the disease.
Pakistan has so far recorded 302,424 COVID-19 cases, with 6,389 deaths.
But the pandemic situation has been improving, with the number of daily new cases at below 1,000 since the start of the month and mostly under 500 for the past fortnight. A total of 404 new cases were reported on Monday.
The number of active cases in the country has dropped below 6,000.
Faisal Sultan, the special assistant for the prime minister on health, had last week said the trends were closely monitored before taking this very important decision about reopening schools.
“In view of the very low positivity rates, we are confident that the schools can be opened stage-wise,” he had maintained.