During the past decade or so, Pakistan has witnessed changes in its established weather patterns. While the overall average temperatures have increased, extreme high or low temperatures are being seen every second year. However, the trend has gone unnoticed by educational authorities and departments.
The changed weather conditions present a challenge to millions of school-going kids and their parents in Pakistan. Sudden changes in weather can play havoc with children’s health, affecting their academic life, social engagements and more.
The government’s carelessness is as much to blame when it comes to the students’ school schedule.
No matter how extreme the weather gets during the winters or summers, the government (both Provincial and Federal) stay immune to the horrifying incidents around them. Several children died during last summer season, with even more falling sick almost every other year because of the oddly scheduled vacations.
The educational authorities misjudged the weather as usual and went on to give winter vacations as per the usual schedule. Students were offered holidays from the last week of December to the first one of January.
However, Pakistan was facing a warm summer up until then and temperatures never matched the annual averages. Once the vacations were over, rainfall began across Pakistan accompanied by heavy snowfall in the northern areas and some western areas of KPK and Balochistan.
Strong cold spell was late this year resulting in students falling sick across the country
This has resulted in a strong winter spell with cold winds and high humidity. People, especially kids, are falling sick all over the country. Sudden change in weather is already enough to cause health issues, couple that with going to school and you get a recipe for an epidemic.
Vacations Schedule Followed By Pakistani Educational Institutions
Winter and summer vacations are more or less still based on the schedules laid out by the British rulers prior to Pakistan’s independence.
Pakistan still follows the decades old British vacations schedule
All of Pakistan’s provinces have widely diverse weather patterns. The cold witness in northern areas, KPK and Balochistan is far more than what you witness in most parts of Punjab or Sindh. Similarly, summers are particularly harsh and dangerous in Sindh and southern Punjab.
This clearly indicates that the current vacation schedule is not suitable across the country. Even though the power resides with the respective provincial ministries, federal government still has the power to set a standard.
The Dilemma of Private Schools
Private schools have their own agenda in offering lesser vacation periods. In order to continue making profits on other services they offer (bus, security, etc.). Taking tuition fees while 3 or more months are spent in vacations also becomes difficult to justify.
Private schools avoid long vacations to justify higher fee collection
Therefore, most schools go with less than 60 days of summer vacation while offering at most one or two weeks of winter vacation.
Yet again, the parents are protesting against the badly scheduled winter vacations. Attendance in private and government schools has been very low since the winter spell began.
Parents have asked private schools to extend winter vacations as children are facing health issues. The matter has been taken up in Karachi as The Private Schools Management Association (PSMA) has sent a letter to the education department in Sindh asking for an extension in winter vacation in Karachi.
Attendance is low and parents are protesting to extend the vacations
“Taking in consideration the changing weather if not two weeks, then at least a week or a 10-day vacation should be given,” the request said.
Considering the lack of sewage water and garbage piles, health issues are dominant in Pakistan’s largest city. The request was justified considering the scenario in the city.
The request has, however, been declined by the Education Minister.
The solution is pretty obvious. As all provinces have their own weather patterns, vacations should be based on their climate as well. So summer vacations could be shorter (i.e. 2 months) in cooler provinces while winter vacations could be 4 to 5 weeks long.
Similarly, warmer provinces should have at least 3 month long summer vacations including most of May, which is considerably hotter than September. Winter vacations could be two to three weeks depending on the weather.
Vacations should be based on weather predictions to avoid issues in extreme weather
The above aren’t definite recommendations because that would again be a mistake. The educational departments need to consider the predictions made by the Met department and offer vacations based on that. So if a warmer summer is predicted, summer vacations could be longer. Same goes for winter.
A similar suggestion has been given by the Director of the Met department in Pakistan. He suggests using their reports as basis for vacations throughout the year.
Had Met department’s recommendations been followed, winter vacations could have started in January this year or could have been extended by a week or two.
The government also needs to tighten its grip on private institutions. The vacation periods should be enforced in all educational institutes throughout each province. Private institutions often violate this and offer limited vacations. This should not go unnoticed.
Children and other elder students are the future of our country. Putting them at risk not only has an effect on the nation’s future but also the present as parents tend to change their attention from work to their kids’ health. Resources allocated to students also go wasted when attendance is lower. Students cannot be expected to learn at their best in extreme weather conditions and these seemingly “small” issues can have major consequences in the future.