The government has announced orders for schools to re-open on September 15, as institutions, both private and public, struggle with the lack of digital infrastructure to support online instruction and increasing operational costs.
With transmission rates for COVID-19 reaching 40 percent, the government threatens to endanger a large portion of the population by forcing them into a vulnerable environment with augmented exposure. This is likely to result in worsening bouts of infection, a more prolonged existence of the virus in Pakistan and risking the wellbeing of many—proving this policy is anything but promising.
As hard as it is to stomach, the pandemic is here to stay. In an ideal world, students could have stayed at home and studied, but that is simply not possible, primarily due to lack of quality internet services beyond major urban centres. Just recently, the lack of internet access to students in Gilgit-Baltistan has been identified as an exigent problem. Halting all education for the next year or so is also not a feasible plan, given the fact that large parts of the student body at all levels will be unable to participate in a digital-only medium of instruction. Reopening schools then, becomes necessary. However, this does not mean that the state forgets the need to urgently upgrade services all over Pakistan.
Even with schools open, attendance is likely to be shoddy and systems of operations inefficient. One group or the other will always be losing out either due to the inability to travel to cities to attend universities, connectivity issues in far-off areas or isolation born out of vulnerability to the spread of corona.
If normalcy is to resume, our ministers need to come up with contingency plans that revolve around a multifaceted approach, even if schools are opened at half capacity, like improving internet provision or revising curriculum sizes.