Science Fuse organized a webinar focusing on issues regarding the reopening of educational institutions in Pakistan following the decrease in COVID-19 cases on September 21. The webinar was held in continuation of a series of online discussions titled “Girls’ Education during & beyond COVID-19” to address different topics related to education in Pakistan, particularly related to the problems faced by the female students and educators.
The webinar titled ‘Safe Return of Children to Schools in Pakistan during COVID-19’ was moderated by Pakistan Youth Change Advocates Executive Director Areebah Shahid.
A diverse set of panelists ensured a thoughtful discussion over the topic; the guests included Kiran Foundation Chairperson and Founder Sabina Khatri, activist and educator Sumera Mehboob who hails from Khuzdar, Balochistan, and government representative Senator Saher Kamran.
Highlighting the significance of following the SOPs introduced by the government and health authorities in order to effectively tackle the menace of COVID-19, the Senator was of the view that a combined approach from community members and educational institutions was required to ensure a trouble-free reopening of schools throughout Pakistan.
Elaborating the efforts being done by provincial governments to implement health safety procedures in schools, Senator Kamran mentioned that gradual reopening of educational institutions gave an opportunity to make sure that basic facilities were being provided. She mentioned partnerships between district governments and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with regards to providing sanitization products and masks to the latter to ensure the wellbeing of the staff and students.
Ms. Khatri of Kiran Foundation lamented that the COVID-19 crisis added to the woes of the country’s education system.
She mentioned that her organization was already focusing on providing education through online means hence the students found it relatively easy to switch completely to digital means when the pandemic hit the country and schools were forced shut. She specified the importance of the involvement of parents in their children’s learning and also on the development of a curriculum that would focus on the mental wellbeing of students.
Sumera Mehboob mentioned that for children belonging to Balochistan, going to schools as of now would be infeasible considering that educational institutions in the province have been closed for the past 10 months and that the school year would come to an end after two months due to extreme weather.
Hence, the parents are forced to make tough decisions and bear the educational expenses of their children for such a brief amount of time.
She also highlighted the importance of enabling teachers in terms of playing a leading role in their respective communities to stress upon the need and benefits of educating the young ones, specifically the females of the society.
Following the webinar, the hashtag #ListenToSumera trended on Twitter when many activists and concerned citizens highlighted Sumera Mehboob’s concerns about education in Balochistan.
Science Fuse continues organizing webinars in the future to further discuss and inform audiences about the issues related to the country’s education systems and the reforms that can be made to improve the situation. The webinars can be streamed live on the official Facebook page of Science Fuse.
The upcoming webinar on October 26th will stream at 6:00 pm and include meaningful discussion about the necessity of creating safe spaces for female educators and students following the new normal.