KARACHI: The Sindh Education Department on Saturday decided against the early closure of educational institutions in the province as the second wave of the pandemic sweeps across the country.

Chairing a meeting of the provincial education steering committee, members were informed by Education Minister Saeed Ghani of recommendations regarding early school closure.

The meeting was attended by Sindh Education Secretary Ahmed Bakhsh Narejo, Secretary Colleges Sindh Syed Baqir Naqvi, senior officials of the education department and officials of private school associations.

The meeting also discussed the matter of winter breaks in schools. Ghani said no final decision was taken in the last meeting chaired by the federal minister of education.

Sources claim it was decided not to close educational institutions for winter break this year. The meeting further decided to further tighten Covid-19 related SOPs in schools and the option to conduct classes online is available for all educational institutions.

In an earlier meeting of the Inter-Provincial Education Ministers’ Conference (IPEMC), provincial education ministers opposed the immediate closure of educational institutions.

Keeping the current situation in mind, consultations were held in regards to the early closure of schools for winter vacations and extending the break. The forum proposed commencing winter break from November and continuing it till January.

On November 5, the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training decided not to close educational institutions amid rising coronavirus cases across the country.

Participants had agreed then that there was no need to close educational institutions in the current situation, whereas no final decision could be made to start the academic year from August instead of April.

The federal minister had said that the advisory of the Ministry of Health was their priority and that educational activities would continue until advised otherwise.

Education ministers to meet on Monday to discuss school closure

In a bid to review the ongoing coronavirus situation in the country and decide whether schools should be closed, an Inter-Provincial Education Ministers’ Conference (IPEMC) will take place on Monday, November 23.

The meeting will be convened by the Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood, while provincial education ministers — along with officials from health ministries and the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) — will also be in attendance to discuss the situation.

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Last Monday, a similar meeting was called by Shafqat Mehmood to decide early and extended winter vacation. During the meeting, provincial ministers apprised the forum about the latest COVID-19 situation and the impact on the education sector in their regions, but no final decision was taken about vacations and closure of schools. As a result, the decision was deferred to November 23.

Following the meeting, the federal minister took to his Twitter account and announced that the ministers could not reach a consensus regarding the closure of schools in accordance with the situation in their respective provinces.

While sharing the options discussed by the minsters, Shafqat Mahmood said one of the formulas that came up during the meeting was that the government should grant winter vacations and extend them.

“The second formula [proposed] was that the government should grant holidays but first [in a phased manner] to primary schools, then secondary schools and finally, to the universities,” he added.

Shafqat Mahmood said that discussions also revolved around the upcoming matric exams. “Another suggestion was to move the matric exams being held in April to May,” he said.

“If the academic year is beginning in April, then shift it to August,” added Shafqat Mahmood, stating that these options were under discussion since “these are special circumstance”.

Murad Raas also shared his sentiments of school closure in a number of tweets.

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