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    Punjab revises winter vacation schedule

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    Children walk to their school along a street amid smoggy conditions early in the morning in Lahore on December 17, 2021. — AFP
    • 24 smog-affected districts to observe winter vacation from December 23 to January 6.
    • 12 districts to observe winter vacation from January 3 to 13.
    • The Lahore High Court had asked the govt to close schools early in view of rising smog levels.

    The Punjab government on Tuesday notified a revised winter vacation schedule, with separate dates for the various districts of the province that are not witnessing particularly high levels of smog.

    According to a notification by the School Education Department, all public and private educational institutions in Kasur, Sialkot, Narowal, Faisalabad, Sahiwal, Gujrat, Gujranwala, Pakpattan, Sheikhupura, Okara, Vehari, Khanewal, Lahore, Khushab, Hafizabad, Multan, Lodhran, Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Sargodha, Mandi Bahauddin, Sialkot, Nankana Sahib and Jhang will observe holidays from December 23 to January 6, as smog levels in these districts are higher than others.

    On the other hand, educational institutes in Jhelum, Mianwali, Attock, Muzaffargarh, Chakwal, Bhakkar, Rawalpindi, Rajanpur, Layyah, Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan, and Chiniot, where smog levels are lower will observe winter vacations from January 3-13 and in the meanwhile will continue the ongoing vaccination drive in schools.

    Earlier in the day, the provincial government announced that winter vacations for universities — public and private — across the province would be observed from December 23 to January 6.

    According to a notification issued by the Higher Education Department, all universities under the jurisdiction of the Higher Education Department Punjab shall follow these dates for holidays.

    “All the concerned authorities shall ensure 100% vaccination of all teaching and non-teaching staff and students by the opening of institutions in the wake of an increasing number of the Omicron variant of COVID-19,” he notification added added.

    “Non-vaccinated teaching, non-teaching staff, and students shall not be allowed to enter their concerned institutions,” it warned.

    Education minister announces province-wide holidays

    Last week, Minister for Education Punjab Murad Raas announced that the winter vacations for schools — public and private — across the province would be observed from December 23 to January 6.

    The education minister, while announcing the schedule, also advised the masses to get vaccinated and follow government-mandated standard operating procedures, as the new coronavirus variant Omicron has also spread to Pakistan.

    Pakistan confirmed its first case of the new variant last Monday in a patient who had no travel history.

    Hours before Raas’ announcement, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) had decided January 3 as the date for the commencement of winter vacations across all the educational institutes of the country.

    The date was finalised during a meeting of the NCOC, headed by Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives and NCOC chief Asad Umar, held to review the rescheduling of winter vacations.

    LHC asks govt to consider closing schools early

    Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court (LHC) had directed the government to consider closing schools from December 20 as the rising level of smog in the city continues to pose a health risk for citizens, The News reported.

    The court issued the order during a hearing of petitions related to environmental issues.

    An officer of the Punjab Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) informed the court that the higher consumption of grilled fish and BBQ during the winter season was contributing to rising pollution in the city.

    The PDMA official informed the court that curtailing markets and putting a check on restaurant timings could help solve the problem of smog in the city.

    Justice Shahid Karim, however, did not approve of the suggestion. Instead, he asked authorities to mull over the decision to close schools early for winter vacations from December 20.

    The judge also ordered the relevant authorities to continue taking action against violators of traffic rules and to seal those brick kilns which failed to pay fines ordered by the judicial commission.

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