Coronavirus and winter vacations for schools: What options were discussed in education ministers' meeting?

One of the options was to announce winter vacations for schools and extend them due to coronavirus, says Shafqat Mahmood

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has seen a rise in coronavirus cases ever since the government opened schools and educational institutions on September 15. With several people getting infected, the question on everyone's minds is — will the government announce winter vacations early and order closure of schools or not?

A few suggestions and recommendations were discussed in the education ministers meeting on Monday, chaired by Federal Minister for Education, Shafqat Mahmood. However, no final decision was taken and the government announced that another meeting next week would take place to further deliberate on the issue. 

Note: The coronavirus and winter vacations discussion starts from 24:32 in the video clip attached above. 

Read more: Coronavirus in Pakistan: No decision on closure of schools, early winter vacations, says Shafqat Mahmood

Shafqat Mahmood shed light on the options that were discussed by the education ministers on Geo News programme Capital Talk. 

"One of the formulas that came up [during the meeting] was that the government should grant winter vacations and extend them," said the minister. 

"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". 

Read more: Daily report: Coronavirus cases in Pakistan and abroad on November 16

The PTI leader said that next Monday, a final decision will be reached on the matter of closure of educational institutions. "So we will gather all the evidence, the facts and compare them with one another," he said. "And by next week, Insha'Allah, a final decision will be taken."

In response to a question on why a final decision wasn't announced on Monday, Shafqat Mahmood said that a consensus could not be reached during the meeting of the education ministers. 

"We held a lot of consultations, and it isn't only about Punjab. It concerns the entire country," said the education minister about the pandemic and schools closure. "Based on the statistics of coronavirus cases that they [education ministers] had with them, they were of the view that schools should not be closed as of now," he revealed. 

Shafqat Mahmood said that a final decision was not taken as all parties failed to reach a consensus on the issue. "Ever since this coronavirus pandemic began, every decision the federal government and I have taken has been one based on consensus," he explained. 

Coronavirus in Pakistan: No decision on closure of schools, early winter vacations, says Shafqat Mahmood

In the meeting, provincial ministers shared information about the latest coronavirus situation and the impact on the education sector in their regions, but no final decision was taken about vacations and closure of schools.

The Inter-Provincial Education Ministers' Conference (IPEMC) will meet again on November 23 at 11:00 am to review the situation.

Apart from the education ministers, the meeting was also attended by officials of health ministries and the National Command and Operations Centre.