Theaters and cinemas take priority over schools in Pakistan
While the world is struggling to be back to the new normal after a devastating hit of COVID-19, Pakistan is no different where coronavirus outspread caused hundreds of businesses to closed down and leaving thousands of employees without a job. The economic pressure had put Pakistan in an undesirable situation where lockdown is preferable to break the chain of virus spread and simultaneously lifting the lockdown is most desired by the nation to save themselves from hunger.
The government was forced to discontinue the lockdown in the last days of May 2020 amid Eid shopping. After that, the nation saw the worst side of the pandemic so far when the COVID-19 cases spiked in days due to excessive unnecessary gatherings in shopping malls and street markets, which made the government put the country in strict lockdown once again.
During July 2020 Dr. Zafar Mirza, SAPM on health had announced an eighty percent decrease in the cases of coronavirus which made people believe that the virus is no more. Recently, Asad Umar who chairs the National Command and Operations Centre announced an ease in the lockdown of various businesses which has allowed cinemas, theaters, tourism, and restaurants to operate under strict SOPs. Whereas, banquet halls and schools are to be open from 15th September but a reconsideration meeting will be held on 7th September, to decide the future of education only.
Unlike the UK, where prime minister Boris Johnson had pleaded that he might consider locking down all other activities to make the schools opening safe and USA president Donald Trump stressed to open up schools, the situation in Pakistan is quite disappointing.
The country that is far behind the world and lacks in providing free education to its children has declared to open up all the non-mandatory activities of the country and leaving education to the last priority in the list. Within three days of ease in the lockdown, we have seen the number of COVID-19 cases to increase once again. People, who were dying to get their businesses open and were facing a severe financial crunch, seemed to be waiting for the tourism to open and spend whatever they are left with. Videos and photos were shared all over social media showing flocks of people blocking roads due to excessive traffic jams at famous tourist destinations like Murree and Kalam. Sadly, the majority of people were not seen wearing a face mask too. This situation is quite alarming when considering Muharram ul Haram is just coming up ahead where people gather in great numbers to perform their religious duties.
In my opinion, we should strive for long term fruits for our nation. Education is the only tool that may help our crippling country to stand tall with other nations of the world. Tourism has always been linked with children's school holidays. As we know that schools are off, therefore the probability of taking children for a tourist destination is likely more than normal. This is exactly what happened recently that all families despite the COVID-19 outbreak had taken their children for a ride in hills because they are free from schools. Opening of tourism must be linked with schools opening so that fewer number of people across provincial borders.
Furthermore, the government should also be thinking to try smart opening of schools. There are areas in every city where COVID-19 cases have almost become zero. Schools in those areas must be opened to get education back on track once again. Children in almost 95 percent of the schools, go from a radius of about 1-2 kilometers from their schools. Which is a positive measure to keep the spread of virus intact instead of making these people visit different cities or gather in a restaurant for hours coming from various areas at one time? The government had already promoted all students in the next classes without taking examinations this year and if the current situation continues and the spread of virus takes a boost once again, I am afraid that the education will be left far behind for our country and promoting students once again will not at all be a wise decision to make.
The writer is the owner of a private school in Lahore Cantt.
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