Students suffered the most
Throughout 2020, schools, colleges and universities were in the headlines in Pakistan.
The six-month coronavirus lockdown in Pakistan brought multiple industries to a halt but the most affected sector was education.
According to a yearend round up by SAMAA TV, approximately 500 private schools in Sindh shut down completely rendering over 100,000 teachers jobless.
“At most of these schools, the fees were never paid and around 35% of the students never came back to school,” All Sindh Private Schools and Colleges Association Chairperson Haider Ali said.
Even when the government announced classes be shifted to online, the attendance remained less than 10%.
“In a class of 40 students, only four showed up for online classes,” a teacher said. This was because only one in every five households can afford a mobile phone for their child to study on.
The teacher added that online classes can never compare to physical ones. “It’s completely different when a person is there in front of you physically. Nothing can match that.”
Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani was of a similar opinion. In a press conference earlier this month, he said most students in the province don’t even have a computer for virtual classes, leading to a huge educational loss for them.
The results of Karachi University’s entry test this year are proof of that. Almost 75% students sitting for the exam failed after which the varsity had to cancel the tests and take admission on open merit basis.
All educational institutions across the country were closed late February after coronavirus cases spiked. They were reopened in phases starting September 15.
Universities, colleges, and classes IX and X resumed from September 15. The students from classes VI to VIII were called to schools from September 23 and the students enrolled below class VI started from September 30.
To compensate for the lost time, Pakistan’s educational institutions decided to remain open on Saturdays and not winter vacations this year, according to a notification issued by the federal education ministry.
On November 23, after the second wave of coronavirus hit the country, the government announced that all educational institutes in Pakistan will close again from November 26.
Classes were taken online till December 24 and winter vacations started from December 25 and will last till January 10. The government said it will hold a meeting to review the decision to reopen schools on January 4.
On the other hand, Ghani said he doesn’t think schools across Pakistan will reopen in January.
The minister said that under given circumstances, where the second wave of the novel coronavirus has gripped the country, it is highly unlikely that educational institutions will reopen.
To make up for the losses students suffered throughout the year, the government came up with a number of incentives to help them.
In April, the country’s first education channel was launched. The TeleSchool Channel is a joint project of Pakistan Television Ltd and the Ministry of Education.
The channel is available on satellite, terrestrial and cable. The educational channel broadcasts programmes from 8am to 5pm everyday and delivers content for grades one to 12.
Later in December, the government launched the country’s first radio school and education portal for distance learning as well.
A joint venture of the government and Radio Pakistan, the radio school aims to educate over eight million children across the country.
It runs educational programmes for four hours a day in two slots. The morning slot is from 10am to 12pm.
The education portal is a digital platform where students are able to take online classes. The initiatives were introduced to help students continue their education as schools remain closed during the pandemic.