With the timeline for the acquisition and rollout of the vaccine in Pakistan still uncertain, and news reports speaking of the second wave of the coronavirus soon giving way to a third wave, the decision about reopening schools hangs in the balance; and understandably so. It’s not just that the virus is spreading much faster, it’s also that new variants are cropping up all the time and just about everywhere, some of which – at least the faster spreading one from the UK – have already reached Pakistan. And new research that some of these strains are also transmissible to children and could affect them just like adults is enough to send chills down the spines of parents as well as policy makers.
Therefore it is no surprise that the education ministry is once again double minded about when to allow students back to their schools. A few schools have been able to manage just fine because of access to the internet and online learning, etc. But that still leaves out the vast majority of students in the country who do not enjoy such luxuries. And that, not very surprisingly, has already led to hundreds if not thousands of schools shutting down up and down the country. Now, even if the decision to return to schools is taken a lot of students will have nowhere to go to because their schools could not survive the financial crunch and went bankrupt.
All this is very unfortunate yet we must make the best of the situation that we find ourselves in, just like everybody else in the whole world. Therefore while the government is at the mercy of the virus as far as schools are concerned, it is advised to do what it can to spread internet coverage and affordability as far and wide as possible in the shortest manageable time. For, nearly all problems caused by the virus will go away with time. The economy will slowly come back to its feet, people will live better once again, but the lost years of education will be very difficult to make up for. And since all countries, especially poor ones, are in the grip of this problem at the moment, this could well become a generational issue. As the government watches for the most opportune to reopen schools, it must work on promoting online education for all.