23 January 2021
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Multiple universities across Pakistan have announced that final exams for the fall semester 2020-2021 will be taken in person on campus but students aren’t having it.

“This is downright unfair,” Huzaifa Rana, a student at the University of Lahore told SAMAA Digital. “The entire semester, we took classes online and all of a sudden they have decided to call us in.

“Have they forgotten that we are in the middle of a pandemic where cases are increasing every day?” Rana asked.

When the second wave of the novel coronavirus hit Pakistan, the government closed down educational institutions across the country on November 23, shifting classes online. On January 4, Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood announced that classes nine to 11 will reopen on January 18, while universities will reopen from February 1.

On Wednesday, university students took Twitter by storm and complained that their varsities were supposed to take finals online in the last weeks of January but they have now shifted the dates to February.

Following this, #online_exams_only started trending on Twitter.

“My sister studies at the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute
of Engineering Sciences and Technology and the management has called them in
for exams on campus,” a student from Karachi who didn’t want her name revealed

“We live in Karachi and the university is located on the outskirts of Islamabad,” she pointed out. Throughout the semester her sister was at home as classes were being taken online. “Imagine, she now has to go all the way there just for the exams.”

Sir with all the respect in the world. I humbly say this student’s health does matter and so do our opinion and hear us and take our exams online. In online lectures professors doesn’t take questions. No injustice will be tolerated #online_exams_only@Shafqat_Mahmood@DrMuradPTI pic.twitter.com/ySFREmFav0— Hamza Rizvi (@HamzaRi31956691) January 13, 2021

#If u wish to open our institutes, have enough guts TO TAKE PHYSICAL MEETINGS before opening our physical classes! Don’t compromise our healths, Students lives are of utmost priority!@ImranKhanPTI @Shafqat_Mahmood @DrMuradPTI #online_exams_only pic.twitter.com/DwQwlvxATR— Rai Hasnain Ahmad (@RaiHasnainAhma2) January 13, 2021

Same number of deaths back then when @Shafqat_Mahmood and @DrMuradPTI closed the institutions . I’m still laughing at the fact that they are trying to open them now ! We are stuck in a cycle. Open the institutions and death toll spikes again? #online_exams_only pic.twitter.com/aEPxGVYna6— Muhammad ali (@ali_alucard) January 13, 2021

“Throughout the year, we were taught online where our only source of help was notes and powerpoint presentations,” a UMT student said. “Now they expect us to give exams on campus so that they can fail us easily.”

A spokesperson of the varsity told SAMAA Digital that the
government is already reopening universities from February 1, so they might as
well just delay the exam date and take the finals in person.

On the other hand, Usman, the inquiry officer at the University of Lahore, said the varsity was only calling in only those students to campus who couldn’t give exams online. “Students from art and computer science programmes are being called in and we will make sure all SOPs are implemented thoroughly.”

Is it safe to reopen educational institutions?

While universities are planning to reopen from February, government officials will be meeting tomorrow [January 14] to review the coronavirus situation in the country.

On Wednesday, 2,123 new cases were reported countrywide while 55 people succumbed to the virus. The total virus tally in Pakistan has crossed 500,000.

In a media briefing on Tuesday, Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar said the three sectors that contributed most to the virus spread during the second wave were education, wedding halls and restaurants.

Wedding halls have been closed since the restrictions
were first imposed by the government in September. Restaurants have been operating
with SOPs such as outdoor dining and social distancing.

According to Umar, there are over 50 million students in Pakistan. If schools contributed so greatly to Pakistan’s coronavirus numbers, as the minister inferred, will reopening them send the daily case tally soaring?

Abdul Gh Lone