Schools in Pakistan saw months of closure in 2020 due to COVID-19. They were closed in March 2020 and then reopened in September 2020, only to be shut down again the next month due to the constant rise in COVID-19 cases. On January 4th, 2021, the Government of Pakistan announced phase-wise opening of educational institutions from Jan 18. However, since then the closure of schools and other educational institutions has been a major issue due to rising cases of COVID-19, each time schools reopen in the country.
While it is advised to make the best use of online classes to prevent infection among children, sometimes it might be necessary to send children to school or a designated facility during annual exams, such as Matriculation (high school) exams.
In this article, we will help answer some basic questions regarding the precautionary measures that can help protect school going children from COVID-19, as well as discuss ways to help children cope with mental stress due to the ongoing pandemic.
1. What are the Measures in Schools Against COVID-19?
There are specific measures for schools to protect students against COVID-19. The most significant measure is the compulsory use of masks in all indoor spaces of schools across the country and school buses. The detailed guidelines by the Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training are as follows:
- Use of face masks are mandatory and students should be taught about the proper use of masks
- Students should be reminded not to touch the face covering and to wash their hands frequently.
- Any COVID-19 positive student, staff or any person who has positive contact case must not attend school.
- School staff is to be aware about when they/their children should stay home if they’re sick; or who have recently had close contact with a person with COVID-19 and if they have tested
- Children should be encouraged to practice hand washing with soap for at least 20 seconds and use of hand sanitizer that contains at least 70% alcohol (for staff and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer).
- Parents should ensure the provision of the hand sanitizers within the bags of the children where possible.
- Social distancing should be practiced at all times.
You can learn about how to protect school going children during COVID-19 from this short video by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
2. Where Can I Access Health Guidelines for Educational Institutes in Pakistan?
Comprehensive national health guidelines for educational institutes have been developed and are available on the COVID-19 Health Advisory Platform. Specific guidelines for Higher Education Institutes issued by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) are available on their website.
3. Can Reopening Schools Result in Increased Cases of COVID-19 and What are the Preventive Measures?
Evidence from other countries where schools have reopened has shown that there can be an increase in COVID-19 cases. School reopening results in a large intermingling of adults and children involved in the educational institutes.
There are more than 45 million students studying in various educational institutes across Pakistan and millions of education related staff that are involved in teaching, management, and operations of educational institutes. In order to ensure the sustainability of educational progress and millions of jobs, opening educational institutes will be inevitable. However, some of the basic preventive measures can help the running of schools and other educational institutes. Some basic guidelines regarding safety at schools is as follows:
- Wash hands frequently, always with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or frequently use (an alcohol based) hand sanitizer.
- Remember to not touch your face, eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Do not share cups, eating utensils, food, or drinks with others.
- Maintain social distancing at school.
Here is a short video by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to help your children learn about COVID-19 prevention at schools.
4. How can Parents Help School Going Children Cope with Mental Stress?
Parents can follow the following guidelines for helping school going children to cope from stress during COVID-19:
- Encourage your children to ask questions and express their feelings with you and their teachers.
- Remember that your child may have different reactions to stress; be patient and understanding.
- Prevent stigma by using facts and reminding students to be considerate of one another.
- Coordinate with the school to receive information and ask how you can support school safety efforts (though parent-teacher committees).
- Educate your children regarding the risks and preventive measures related to COVID-19. You can find answers to frequently asked questions from these FAQs by the World Health organization (WHO).
The following video by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) explains how parents can take to help children cope with mental stress.
For questions related to Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) during COVID-19, call at:
Helpline number: 0800-77657
Timing: 9 am - 5 pm (Monday to Friday)
Languages: Urdu, Pashto
Helpline number: 0800-77678
Timing: 9 am - 5 pm (Monday to Friday)
Languages: Urdu, Brahvi, Balochi, and Pashto
The Government of Sindh has also launched a teleconsulting service (1093) for the confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients to help them cope with the Coronavirus pandemic's psychological impact. This helpline functions 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
You can also read an article on our website about taking care of your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sehat Tahaffuz Helpline
You can also visit the Government of Pakistan COVID-19 Health Advisory Platform to get updates on COVID-19. You can also call the Sehat Tahaffuz Helpline at 1166 made available by Ministry of National Health Services Regulations & Coordination, Government of Pakistan.
To receive personalized guidance on different service options in Pakistan or learn more about COVID-19 prevention at school, you can drop us a message at the Bolo Facebook Page.