- A costly but necessary decision
It was all but inevitable that the government would have to shut down schools across the country yet again amid the rising positivity rate of the second wave of the Coronavirus. There was much understandable reluctance to take this decision, given how difficult it was to reopen education institutions after the initial closure when the pandemic first hit, peaking in June and quickly settling down. Students across the world have suffered a lot due to the virus this year. The timing of the shutdown was such that annual IGCSE examinations could not be held, resulting in students being graded according to their schoolwork, a method that did not produce an accurate result and was contested globally. Home learning became another major issue, particularly for Pakistan’s public school students and those attending University; coming from modest backgrounds and far flung areas, they either could not afford the hardware necessary to run the online meeting software, or simply did not have reliable internet connectivity to access entire lectures on a regular basis. Higher education students were more adversely effected, being left out of the fold, they were unable to complete their credit hours, causing an unexpected delay in them joining the workforce, which is the purpose of securing a University degree on time.
Shutting down schools is therefore a costly but necessary decision. While Covid-19 is less lethal for the younger population, it is the unavoidable close proximity that students interact with each other on campuses that makes them prime carriers of the virus to infect their elder relatives at home who have a lesser chance of survival. The only bit of good news is that at least three vaccines that have been under development for close to a year are almost ready for market and mass inoculation. The first batches of these will of course be administered to residents of the countries where they have been produced, which includes the US and UK at the moment. Pakistan has joined the queue and set aside $100 million to procure the vaccines but the timeline is not very reliable since many other countries have done the same. The government should in the meanwhile focus implementation of SOPs and taking all necessary measures, no matter how unpopular, to control the spread.