The Virus that Infected Education Sector

Shutting down educational institutions only makes sense when you do the same to other places as well. When restaurants, markets, and marriage halls are open and gushing with people, what is the sense in closing down schools? We need a stricter and rational lockdown strategy.

Even if you want smart lockdown everywhere, why not apply the same smart lockdown in educational institutions as well?. Smart lockdown means you also allow local schools and local/resident students of universities to attend their respective institutions and limit outside contact. Set up perimeters and monitoring strategies in educational institutions.

These stupid actions not just damage the already deteriorating condition of education in Pakistan but hits the economy associated with the education sector. There are millions of people associated with private education networks and for smaller businesses/schools, it becomes very difficult to run expenses and pay salaries because parents also belong to the lower middle class and can’t even pay nominal fees.

From personal experience, my father established a school in our hometown, upon his retirement, in 2003. His motto always remained this: “Money is not the purpose, education is the purpose, while money is only a necessity.”

Many people didn’t agree with him. Told him to do business. Take hefty fees and run it like other people are running it. But he always said, if I do the same, who will teach these people, and how will I be different? His students who opened schools later have built their own buildings in less than a decade, while we are still running this school in a rented building.

There are around 5 graduates at our home right now, offering their services almost pro bono. I don’t remember if we earned any profits in the last two decades from this school. The whole income goes to rent and salaries. The salaries of our family members have always remained lesser than what we paid to the teachers hired from outside, imagine!

Now, since the ailment and subsequent death of my father, my aunt has been running the school. She is the same as her elder brother, an empath and money-hater. She would take in 5 kids of a daily wage worker and make them pay half the fees of two kids and the rest would be free. When we submit our tax returns, the tax officers tell us you people are crazy when they see our funny statements, often going in losses.

Since the pandemic has started, we are facing this dilemma that the petty income we earned from this school has gone and we have been paying the rent from our pockets. We had to let teachers go and the family members going jobless as well.

Many small schools around us have sold their setups or shut them down permanently. I, being the elder son now, was told to sell the setup but I am not willing to sell it to some commercial entity/person because of my father’s motto, mission, and remembrance.

The purpose to narrate this personal story is not to earn sympathies or ask for donations. The purpose is to call some attention towards this sector and the careers of students and livelihoods of millions of workers associated with this industry, which are being affected due to pandemic.

Government can’t even afford to make public schools safe, nobody expects them to bail out the private sector. On the contrary, they are creating more hurdles by introducing such flawed and hypocritical policies. Serious attention is required by the government in this regard.

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Dr Akif Khan

Akif Khan is a PhD in natural sciences and is currently a Postdoc Fellow at a Chinese University. In addition to being a scientist, he is a blogger and rights activist. He writes on science, society, politics, and religion and can be reached on twitter @akifzeb.