NCOC suggests reopening of educational institutions on ‘top-down, rotational’ basis


ISLAMABAD : The National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) on Thursday suggested that all educational institutes in the country should be reopened with a top to bottom approach (i.e universities first, then colleges, then high schools and so on) and on a rotational basis.

The suggestion was made during a meeting of the NCOC to discuss the reopening of educational institutions across the country. However, it is clarified that a final decision on reopening of educational institutes will be made on September 7, as earlier intimated by the government.

The meeting was attended by representatives of various educational institutions, including public and private sector institutions and madaris, to reach a consensus-based decisions on the opening of various institutions from university to school levels.

All the provincial, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan focal representatives joined the meeting via a video link.

According to a statement released by the NCOC after the meeting, it has been suggested that the timings of various institutions should be reduced by suspending various activities which involve mass gatherings, including co-curricular activities.

All participants were briefed on the current coronavirus situation prevailing globally, regionally and in the country. They were also informed about the risks and challenges involved in the opening of educational institutions as it involved children of all ages.

The educational sector representatives were informed that the NCOC’s suggestions had been finalised after hectic and lengthy consultations with international experts, academia and think tanks, particularly those who had been working on the reopening of the educational sector.

Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood told the meeting participants that the basic challenge to open educational institutions was founded on two questions: what are the indicators for opening, and what measures will be taken to ensure that health guidelines ensuring the use of face masks, social distancing and hygiene measures.

Mehmood said that the final decision to reopen schools would be taken on September 7 after agreement and input from all relevant stakeholders.

The meeting suggested that the best way to reopen schools, as recommended by health experts, has been to reopen institutions gradually.

The NCOC added that all educational institutions must ensure all relevant COVID-19 protocols are in place before a final decision is taken.

The NCOC apprised the participants that tracking, tracing and testing will help arrest any spread.

“For this, enhanced testing of symptomatic children, teachers and school staff will be very beneficial,” the NCOC said.

All provinces, AJK and GB apprised the NCOC forum about measures being taken, including consultations with various educational institutions in their respective areas, on teachers’ training and coronavirus awareness.

Dr Faisal Sultan told the participants that while the eventual opening will be undertaken after a consultative process, the NCOC and the Health Ministry would closely monitor disease statistics on a daily basis, particularly to assess the likely impact of tourism and Muharram on the opening of educational institutions.

He added that an IT-based monitoring mechanism is being developed to ensure health guidelines and COVID-19 containment measures in this regard.