ISLAMABAD-Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training (FE&PT) on Wednesday called a special Inter Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC) meeting next week to discuss the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in educational institutions.

Details said that the meeting has been called on November 16 at the National Command and Operations Center (NCOC). Minister for FE&PT Shafqat Mahmmod has called this special meeting and letters have been sent to all provincial education ministers to attend it.

The NCOC in its routine meeting was briefed that there is an increasing positivity ratio in educational institutions and there is a need to check this trend. The NCOC decided that on November 16 the federal minister for education would chair a special meeting at NCOC with provincial education ministers on board to assess and review the COVID-19 positivity prevailing in educational institutions.

It decided that after consultative discussions, the recommendations would be shared with the provinces for consequent decision and enforcement.

The forum considered a rising positivity ratio suggested for an early and extended winter vacation to reduce impact of disease spread and ensure safety and health students.

Earlier this month, 21st meeting of IPEMC was held under the chair of Minister of FE&PT Shafqat Mahmood and the forum ruled out closure of educational institutions in the country.

Director General National Health Services Dr. Safi Malik gave a detailed presentation to the forum on the existing COVID-19 situation in the country. Similarly, all provinces shared the data of positivity rate of COVID-19 cases in schools and colleges which was ranging from 1 to 2 per cent scarcely; hence the forum was satisfied with controlled situation in educational institutions.

Keeping in view the overall situation, the largest education forum of the country unanimously ruled out the closure of educational institutions. It was agreed that the targeted closure of institutions where the infection rate increases would be carried out with the help of local administration.

The forum opposed the long winter vacations and recommended either no winter vacations or limited for few days so that the students may cover their courses. The regular academic year before COVID-19 was of 32 weeks which has now been condensed to 11 weeks only, so there is no rationale for long vacations.

Federal Minister Shafqat Mahmood sought proposals from all the federating units in the next 15 days about a uniform academic calendar across the country. Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood, keeping in view the loss of students during six months closure of schools due to COVID-19, also asked the proposals from all federating units about moving the academic year from April to August, at least for current academic year.

The federal minister also advised all the provinces to ensure strict compliance of SOPs in educational institutions.

More than 250 educational institutions in the federal capital including public and private schools/colleges and universities have been closed for the brief period after confirmation of more than two COVID-19 cases there.