Key media role
Apart from the heroic sacrifice being offered by our courageous medical and paramedical force, as well as our valiant security personnel, journalists and other media workers are also playing a crucial role in the fight against the novel coronavirus in the country. Even in these times of crisis, media workers have been performing their duties as they normally do. They have been bringing timely and critical information to the public from the frontlines. And in the line of this sacred duty, three journalists have contracted the virus in Punjab.
In what is more important in this era of fake news, several media outlets have been doing their best to bring accurate and verified information to the public. With a tsunami of misinformation with regard to symptoms and purported cures, media representatives are cautious enough to pass on only filtered information. The public has deemed such information invaluable as seen in the form of greater viewage statistics.
The importance of media to the government can also be seen in the fact that journalists and media workers have been deemed essential personnel and are amongst the small list of people who have been exempt from the lockdown and curfew-like restrictions imposed almost country-wide. It is, therefore, important that in this critical time, as the government secures much-needed personal protection equipment for doctors and security services and provides them with protection training, journalists should also be considered.
Moreover, the government must also allocate funds for the media in its stimulus package so that these organisations can continue paying their staff and provide the public with much-needed information. Besides, the three reporters who have contracted the coronavirus must be provided with all the necessary care so that they could make swift recovery.
The school fees issue
There is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Obviously, the reference is to the raging coronavirus pandemic sweeping throughout the world. There are reports from Punjab and Sindh that owners of private schools are asking for tuition fees for the months of April and May though schools will stay closed in these two months to protect students, teachers and other school staff from Covid-19. Curiously, owners are demanding fees for the two months when schools are normally closed for summer vacation. It is unclear what rules govern fee collection for vacation periods.
The Punjab government had asked schools to cut fees by 20% because of the emergency situation. Representatives of private schools in Punjab held a meeting with relevant provincial ministers and officials recently in Lahore to resolve the issue. The representatives of schools requested for 48 hours to decide their response, which was granted. Parents in Punjab claim schools have persistently been asking them for tuition fees for April and May, and some of the schools are not issuing results cards because of the delay in submitting the fees. They claim that some school administrations have even gone on to say students will not be promoted to the next class or they will be struck off from the school roll, if fees are not paid. Parents also claim private schools are not implementing the court order on fee reduction.
Private schools in Sindh too are asking for fees for all months, expressing fears that in the absence of fees, schools could close down rendering teachers and other staff jobless. They say they have to depend on fees collected from students to pay salaries and to meet other expenses. They have offered some relaxation in payment of fees. All stakeholders should try to find a workable solution to the issue.