Schools were open for only 125 days in 2021 | The Express Tribune


The ongoing year proved to be a challenging period for the education sector in Punjab as Covid-19 disturbed academic activities several times during the third and fourth wave of the pandemic.

A leader of Punjab Teachers Union (PTU) said schools in the province opened for only 125 of the 365 days during 2021. During the remaining days except for holidays, the students and teachers remained engaged in online education.

Alternating periods of opening and closure of schools were witnessed with a number of students and teachers also contracting coronavirus.

Due to the peak of coronavirus, government also introduced a promotion policy that resulted in students setting records of marks in exams. While the academic session was delayed, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government introduced a universal curriculum for primary classes in the province for the first time. Like the preceding year, academic activities in Punjab continued to suffer during 2021.

Educational institutions were also among the sectors affected by the pandemic throughout the year. All stakeholders of the education sector, including teachers, students, parents, private school owners, book publishers and government departments faced difficulties in continuing the academic activities.

As the year began, educational institutions were closed due to the peak of the third wave of the pandemic, forcing the teachers and students to adopt online education.

The worst sufferers were the students of government schools, especially those in villages, where the teachers were unprepared for online education amid a lack of facilities required for the purpose. The situation prevailed for five months.

After a little improvement in the situation, schools were opened for a short period in May, but had to be shut again due to spread of the virus and hot weather.

Read Schools to close on Dec 23, Punjab govt informs LHC

After an NCOC meeting, Punjab government decided to reopen schools in steps. In the first phase, the schools were opened for class nine to 12. After June 7, the government also opened schools for other classes but with 50 per cent attendance and implementation of the SOPs.

However, teachers and students in various cities tested positive for the virus, raising fears about their health.

The government, following the NCOC advice, decided to close educational institutions from July 1 till August 1. However, the break was termed summer holidays.

In August, the government and NCOC again decided to reopen schools. However, the NCOC made compulsory the vaccination of school teachers and also announced a deadline in this regard.

The vaccination of teachers continued in August and September. Also in August, students above 18 years of age were included in the vaccination campaign. Academic activities were again disrupted due to the peak of the fourth wave and schools were closed for September 6 to 11.

Later, the NCOC also announced compulsory vaccination of students aged above 12 years.

“Normally we perform duties for 250 days in a year but this year the schools opened for 125 days and now doubt the students suffered a lot,” complained Punjab Teachers Union secretary general Rana Liaqat Ali.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2021.

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