FOR over a year now, the education sector has been particularly hard hit all across the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic. All learners, from grade scholars to those studying in higher education institutions, have been affected, with education systems in both developing states as well as less-developed nations feeling the effects in varying degrees. And while high-income states have been able to cope to some extent, countries with limited resources such as ours — where the public education system is already in a fragile condition — have faced major challenges in meeting educational goals during the pandemic. As per Unesco, half the world’s students are still affected by partial or full school closures, while “over 100m additional children will fall below the minimum proficiency level in reading as a result of the health crisis”. Schools in Pakistan have mostly remained closed during the pandemic, opening for short periods when cases have dipped but closing again when numbers rose. On Monday, the Sindh government announced that schools could reopen on the 30th of this month if they ensured 100pc vaccination of staff, as well as 50pc attendance of students. On the same day, school owners and staffers held protests in various Sindh cities and towns calling for all educational institutions to be reopened.
Balancing the need for educating Pakistan’s children while ensuring their health and that of school staffers is indeed a tough call. While college and university students can cope better with online lessons, younger learners find it more difficult. Also, there are issues of access, as low-income households cannot afford reliable high-speed internet and tablets, smartphones etc to enable online learning. Therefore, educational authorities across Pakistan must ensure that all school staff have been vaccinated so that school can reopen with strict SOPs in place. Meanwhile, the pandemic also offers an opportunity to rethink the education system in Pakistan. With the help of technology and greater access, education can be brought to more children, specifically those millions that remain out of classrooms.