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Political Turmoil and Closure of Schools: A norm in Pakistani education

Attending school in the past decade in Pakistan had made one thing clear: any political march, protest or strike would bring with it a school holiday. As crude as it sounds, knowing that Imran Khan is leading an Azadi March to Islamabad or the TLP has blocked the roads, most students could not help but rejoice at the possibility of a "chutii". I am sure that many of us can relate to this sentiment. However, as much as the advent of a holiday sounds relaxing and enjoyable, it does not leave without its consequences. Something I realised in O levels in 2018 when my global perspectives CAIE was indefinitely cancelled last minute while the TLP (Tehreek-Labaik-Pakistan) raged on the streets of Lahore. Not only did it left the students confused but also put strain on the British council to come up with a fair solution. One could give some circumstantial leeway to this one instance yet it has only occurred again and again since then.

Try imagining the consequences on schools following the 9th May incident, especially those in the vicinity of the core commander house. Having witnessed enough militarisation since the APS attack coupled with widespread civilian unrest called for an immediate closure of all schools. Again, CAIESs were cancelled, annual exams were postponed and all those students who were either in the process of appearing for exams or preparing for them were thoroughly disturbed. Amidst all these occurrences, school closure within times of political turmoil is nothing new in Pakistan. It is if anything increasing exponentially as political instability brings Pakistan to a chokehold. This calls for prompt questioning. What are the consequences of all these unprecendented holidays? How does it impact exam schedules and syllabus completion? Especially in terms of high school exams, does it have an impact on the admissions process and most importantly on the mental health of students?

There is no doubt in the fact that the answer to most of these questions is a big yes. With all these unannounced holidays particularly due to political unrest, exams are shifted or cancelled leaving students dazed. Some rely on one or two components for a grade, disturbing their entire trajectory of obtaining higher marks and ultimately increasing their stress levels. For students as well as teachers, it is an equally testing time. With such off days in the calendar, there is not enough time to complete the entire syllabus in the predetermined span of time thus leading to rescheduling and cramming of material, impacting the transmission of educational knowledge. Examination boards such as the British council get equally perplexed while trying to find a fair solution for kids amongst no exams, how do they judge their performances? Amidst violence and unrest then, it is easy to close down schools however dealing with the impacts of this closure serves as a big challenge to both the students and the teachers alike.

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