Sindh and Federal Disagree Over Reopening of Schools

In recent news, the Sindh and Federal governments have reached an impasse. On Friday, discussions regarding the reopening of education institutions in the following week took place. However, both came into conflict as cases of coronavirus emerged in various schools and colleges. 

Just a day before the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) shut down 13 educational institutions in the country, 22 schools were sealed. All of this was a direct result of non-compliance with guidelines and flouting standard operating procedures (SOPs). 

On the 15th of September, educational institutions were reopened to students of Matric and higher classes. As per the second phase, primary and secondary schools were scheduled to reopen on September 29th and September 23rd, respectively.

However, many coronavirus cases were reported at various schools. Thus, on Friday, the Sindh government announced a delay in reopening of schools for grades 6 till 8. The reason given was concern for the safety of the students due to the violation of the SOPs. 

On the other hand, Shafqat Mahmood, the Federal Education Minister took to Twitter to declare that no changes in the schedule will be made. He stated that the timetable had been designed with careful consideration after meeting with education ministers from the provinces. 

Saeed Ghani, the Sindh Education and Labour Minister, addressed the public in a press conference saying that he had reviewed the current situation related to the implementation of SOPs. It is his opinion that while some educational institutions made good arrangements to prevent a surge in cases, others did not. 

Ghani indicated that a significant rise in cases may result if the number of students in schools is increased. Thus, he decided to delay the decision from the 21st of September to the 28th of September. The education minister further added that if there was no improvement in the situation, the decision will be further postponed. 

In the end, he simply stated that the Sindh government will not compromise where the health of children is concerned. Ghani has announced that the decision will be talked over with the federal government as well. 

Nevertheless, soon after the announcement made by the provincial minister, the federal education minister also decided to speak up. He tweeted in reference to Saeed Ghani’s decision and stated that the timetable will not be altered. 

He went on to say that NCOC will be holding a meeting on Tuesday and thus, will decree the future of the educational institutions. Mahmood is adamant that if the situation remains the same, there will be no reason for a delay. 

The announcement from the minister of Sindh came soon after 89 new cases of the coronavirus emerged amongst the staff and students of various schools. Different public and private schools all over the province began testing as well. The authorities feared that this would further increase the number of positive cases. 

On Thursday, 16 educational institutions were shut down in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, one in Islamabad, and then five more in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.