Pakistan reopens schools while thousands of students remain unimpressed

Away from the rough and tumble of politics is a problem that touches the lives of millions of students but seem not to get inside the radar of the country’s policymakers. It is the resumption of educational activities amid the threat of the return of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In general, Pakistan has not done badly during the health crisis. While many more resourceful countries are still trying to tame the virus, Pakistan has gone for a full-throttle reopening in every field of national life. Schools, colleges, and universities are coming back to regular teaching schedule. The final leap of faith – reopening junior classes – will be taken this week. But unlike business, trade, commerce, and travel, the resumption of education is not smooth or worry-free.

The digital learning due to the pandemic has not been a national success. A majority, about 70% of the total school-going children, remained off the education grid during the recent six months with the Covid-19 shutdown.

These problems should have been addressed with the schools reopening. However, this isn’t the case. Pakistan’s schools are now using the so-called hybrid model, replacing regular school hours with distance learning and dividing students into groups required to strictly attend classes under standard operating guidelines on their designated days. But predictably, not every school can pull it off since many are housed in shack-like structures while others have shortage of teachers and others have staff that is underpaid but has no motivation to spend extra time and heavy energy expenditure.

Curriculum has had to be cut down to fit well with limited teaching hours available. This causes huge learning costs. Parents remain reluctant to let their children spend time in schools. Their apprehensions may be reinforced by news of some campus being shut down for discovery of infected individuals or violating SOPs.

Meanwhile, private school administrators complain of the unscientific bias against school reopening of the government. All of this shows a fairly large educational disarray even as the governments congratulate the nation on the-return-to-the-school good news.