Tuesday Apr 06, 2021
ISLAMABAD: Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood announced Tuesday that on-campus classes for students till grade 8, in districts affected the most by coronavirus, will remain suspended till April 28.
The minister was addressing a press conference after holding an important meeting at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) attended by all the education and health ministers to decide further on closure or reopening of schools amid the worsening coronavirus situation in the country.
"It has been decided that physical classes will not be held from grades 1-8 till April 28 in districts affected by the coronavirus pandemic," said Mehmood. "It must be borne in mind that not every district in Pakistan has been affected by coronavirus."
He said the education minister of Punjab had informed him that 13 districts across the province were affected by the coronavirus, hence on-campus classes will not be held there till April 28.
He said the Sindh government had already announced its decision of suspending on-campus classes from grades 1-8 and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had done the same.
The minister said consultations will be held whether these on-campus classes will remain suspended till Eid or whether they should be resumed "in some staggered way".
He said classes of grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 will be held under strict compliance of coronavirus SOPs from April 19 onwards, so that these students can complete their preparation for their upcoming exams.
"Universities in affected districts will also remain closed and classes will be held online," he said, adding that in other districts, universities will remain open and function as normal.
All education and health ministers are unanimous in their decision to have the O and A level examinations proceed as scheduled, said Mehmood.
He said health and education ministers of all provinces had decided with consensus that O and A level exams should continue as per schedule.
"These student are very less [compared to students of local education boards in Pakistan] and in our discussion with Cambridge, they assured us that coronavirus SOPs will be followed strictly," he said, explaining the reason as to why Cambridge exams were not being delayed.
Going over some reports, the minister said on average, 4,000 students were giving Cambridge exams in a single day. He said there were very few days when 10,000-12,000 O/A level students would give exams.
He said this number was very small compared to the students of local boards.
The minister clarified that Cambridge exams in Sri Lanka, Nepal and India were being held, rejecting the perception that no other countries in the region were holding O/A level exams.
He urged students to prepare for the Cambridge exams as they will be held as per schedule.
"These exams will be held and they will be held under strict compliance of the coronavirus SOPs," he said. "We will monitor every school and ensure SOPs are being followed," added the minister.
Mehmood said last year, the government had passed students of grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 based on their performance in the previous year's exams.
"This time around, we don't even have test results from the last year [due to the coronavirus]," he said. "Hence, these exams are very important and they must be held [on schedule]."
He said nearly 4 million students across Pakistan give exams for 9, 10, 11 and 12 grades. "Exams for 9, 10, 11 and 12 will be held," he said, adding that they will be shifted to the third week of May.
"The date sheet announced by Punjab in which exams were to be held on May 4, have been shifted to May 24 onwards," he said, adding that some exams will be held in even June and July as well.
The minister said universities will be asked to delay their admission tests as well since exams will be held later. He directed the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and universities to come to a solution over the matter.
"The NCOC meeting is reviewing the pandemic situation in the country and will decide the fate of schools," the education ministry said in a message on Twitter .
The federal government had earlier shut all educational institutions in cities where the coronavirus positivity ratio was high till April 11.
On Sunday, Mehmood said that education and health ministers will meet at the NCOC on April 6 (today) to decide whether to open or further close educational institutions.
In a tweet, the minister said that the exam situation will also be discussed during the meeting.
“Whatever is decided will be a collective decision of the country’s health and education authorities & NCOC,” he had said.
Students are staging protests in major cities demanding postponement of exams as in-person learning has been badly affected due to the closure of schools.
On the other hand, the Sindh government has suspended on-campus learning till class 8 from April 6 for 15 days, citing risks of the spread of COVID-19.
The provincial government has also suggested the Centre impose a ban on inter-provincial and air transport to control the third wave of coronavirus which has wreaked havoc in the last few weeks.