A Consultation on “Safe Schools reopening and continuation of education in the time of epidemic” organized by Workers Education and Research Organization (WERO) in collaboration with Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE)held to commemorate World Literacy Day at Karachi.
Educationists, students, representatives of women organisations, trade unionists, human rights organisations and district education office attended the meeting.
Mir Zulfiqar Ali Executive Director, Workers Education and Research Organization (WERO) while welcoming the participants stated that across the world, governments are considering policies and strategies to address the Covid-19 pandemic adapted to their context and the virus spread. Education is one of the sector worst hit by the pandemic. All educational institutions closed from the March 2020 due to the possible spread of Covid.
The key note speaker, Mr. Qazi Khizer Educationist and Human Rights Activist briefed the participants on the impacts of pandemic on education and way forward. While speaking with the participants he said that as per the research of Aga Khan University out of 10 every 9 people are a symptomatic of COVID who have no symptoms but are found COVID-19 positive.
He added that from March 2020, in 190 countries educational institutions were fully or partially closed so as per estimate 90 % children around the world are out of schools from last five months.
Speaking about the issues faced during closure of schools, he informed that many educational institution in Pakistan announced to conduct online class but it was not effectively implemented due to load shedding, lack of gadgets, lack of internet availability and lack of knowledge in teachers, students and parents.
He added, in Pakistan around 60% children enrolled in government schools and in Karachi 8 to 9% children enrolled in government schools.He also informed that in 2018,twenty thousand registered and unregistered schools are functioning in Karachi and most of the schools are operating on 80 to 100 square yard buildings which is very congested and most of the schools have no ventilation.
He informed participants that more than 50 % schools in the country have no water facility; around 50 to 60% schools have no washroom. Mr. Qazi also said that during the six months period of the closure of schools government have to build infrastructure but unfortunately it is not in their priority.
However, after a discussion following set of recommendations checked out to ensure the safe reopening of schools:
The school management, teachers, students and parents should be followed the set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued by the government.
The school management ensured that the classrooms’ strength not exceeded 20 to 25 students per classroom.
All schools must arrange classes on alternative days as compensation to ensure restrictions on strength.
The body temperatures of students and teachers entering the institutions should be checked while they would be sanitised too.
Organising assemblies should be banned.
The parents and school management ensured that social distancing is maintained by the school van drivers. The Schools management should have to arrange more vans for transport to maintain social distancing.
Wearing masks in educational institutes will be mandatory for the faculty, students and staff. The parents should send their children covered with facemasks, be it of cloth. The teacher should have to make sure that the mask is wearable for children and they can breathe easily.
The Staff should be present on schools gates which would directly send children’s into their classrooms without waiting outside on standing in a que.
The parents should not send their children to schools if they feel sick with complaint of cold, fever and runny nose.
The Schools should conduct screening test of every teacher as it is not possible to test every children.
One child should be sent to washroom at a time, staff should be deputed at washrooms to wash taps and make sure that one children use it at a time.
Water and soap should have to be available in every school.
Canteen should have to close and every child should bring food and water from their homes.
Ball Points and other things should not to be share with anyone.
School closing timing should be divided into phases to avoid the rush outside the gate.
Children, teacher and support staff who are positive of COVID should be ban into entering the school and in case of carelessness by children, teachers should warn and on the second phase they should ban child from entering the school as a punishment to save the lives of other students.
It is a responsibility of parents and teachers to educate students about precautions from contracting Covid-19 especially when it came to touching shared surfaces like doorknobs, furniture, chair arms, tables, books, computer equipment audio/video equipment, game devices, and other communal use items.