Perhaps the only thing that Covid-19 has certainly assured us is uncertainty. Its sudden uprise and drastic fall has been quite unprecedented. Experts themselves are having a hard time figuring out the cause behind such a descend, and whether it depicts reality. Nevertheless, as of now, the reported active cases daily appear to have dropped to 6,046 on September 12 according to Worldometer.
Amidst the uncertainty and chaos, it is important for the economy and other activities to not just take a halt forever. While restaurants, gyms, salons, and a lot of other activities have opened up, the reopening of educational institutions was and will always be a highly complicated decision to make, something even the health experts and policy advisers have differences in opinions on. As Dr Faisal Sultan, rightly called it the “biggest step’ yet regarding all the other Covid-19 related decisions that have taken place.
Arguments against campus Reopening
There were understandable arguments on both sides of the situation. The results of opening the campus in countries across the world have shown negative consequences in some parts of the world. But then again, there is this discussion of what really is the accurate basis to be comparing different countries on.
Asad Umar, the federal Minister has admitted it to be a “high risk” decision. “In the past, we dealt smartly with high-risk events such as cattle markets, Eid prayers, and Muharram processions. However, reopening of educational institutions is a far bigger high-risk event and we are making special preparations to deal with it”, he said.
Some health ministers still are quite concerned, specifically for the health of the younger children, who are more prone to misunderstand the importance of following SOPs.
Arguments in favour of campus Reopening
On the other hand, others are of the argument that we possibly cannot affect learning anymore. It is not like any of us is unaware of the plethora of problems online learning brings into. It is even harder for people with underprivileged backgrounds and inappropriate housing environments.
Moreover, while some other countries have switched to distance learning, Pakistan faces a lack of digital access at many instances. Such circumstances will only fuel the already stagnant learning loss, impacting Pakistan’s “development trajectory”.
In the light of this, many protests had taken place by the students to oppose the online system and enforce the reopening of schools.
Plan in action
After a lengthy wait and consistent monitoring, the Ministry of Education, gave its final orders on 7th September (as rightfully announced earlier) for the reopening of campuses on 15th of September.
A number of campuses in Pakistan have adhered to reopening of the campus. The campuses are to follow very strict SOPs. While the HEC has issued a list of SOP induced directives, the university VCs have been given the authority to work flexibly according to their campus needs. Every university is devising different plans of hybrid systems or a phased reopening. While many have converted to in person classes, or a mixture of online and mixed, some have not yet announced any measures regarding in person classes. Hostel resident reduction is yet another important mechanism that is being focused on.
Following are some of the precautionary measures that you must take to ensure safety for you and for those around you.
-Avoid touching surfaces
-Wash your hands frequently, and effectively for about 20 seconds at least
-Keep a safe distance (at least 6 ft) amongst each other
-Wear safety masks (mandatory)
-Refrain from sharing your food and drinks/ water bottle and lunch boxes with others
-Carry a hand sanitizer with you at all times
-Try to bring your food from home
-Avoid touching your face(eyes, nose and mouth)
-Practice proper cough etiquette(cover your sneezes and coughs with either your elbow or with disposable tissues, and wash your hands immediately)
-Limit recreational and other leisure activities
-Try to get your tasks done at one place instead of roaming around in the campus.
Lastly, keep yourself updated on the latest news of corona and follow every piece of instruction the educational institute has instructed you to adhere to.
Message to Students (Hint: You will be okay)
All in all, to every student who is going to be starting campus on the 15th, get ready to mentally prepare yourself that it definitely won’t be the same. It is very understandable to want to hug your friends and just reminisce about old times after being able to see each other after what felt like an era. However, be very mindful of the SOPs. You must realize it is your utmost responsibility as a citizen, to adhere to the rules. If, unfortunately, the cases start rising again, these decisions will have to be revised, as already announced.
Be very mindful of the fact that your actions influence not just you, but also the people around you. The quality of education that you get right now has a heavier impact on you than you imagine it to be!
Lastly, good luck! It surely is a big change to gulp down our throats. Having anxiety at this point is very natural for most of us. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Your instructors and peers, everyone will be more accommodating this time. Moreover, don’t forget, we are all in this together!