Education minister says colleges, grades 9 through 11 will be first to resume normal classes
Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood on Monday announced that the government had decided to allow educational institutions to reopen nationwide in a phased manner, with higher education classes to commence from Sept. 15.
Addressing a press conference alongside Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan, Mahmood said the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), in consultation with think tanks and specialists, had decided to reopen schools in light of the declining cases of COVID-19 in the country.
“All universities, Higher Education Commission institutes and colleges will be reopened from Sept. 15,” he said, adding that grades 9 through 11 would also resume normal operations from next week.
Thanking parents for “patiently waiting” for six months while the pandemic was raging globally, the minister said that resumption of normal operations was being conducted in phases to ensure there was no new surge of COVID-19 cases. In this regard, he said, students of grades 6 through 8 would be allowed to resume regular schooling from Sept. 23.
“At that point, we will also take decisions relating to examinations,” he said, referring to tests that have been delayed or suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the final phase, said the minister, primary schools would be allowed to reopen from Sept. 30—provided there was no renewed risk of COVID-19 transmission in the previous two weeks. “So, if the situation remains positive, we will reopen all schools within 15 days,” he added.
Dr. Sultan, meanwhile, said the country’s situation regarding coronavirus testing and their positivity rate was presently “satisfactory,” adding it was the right time to open educational institutions in a phased manner.
Referring to the global debate over reopening educational institutions, Sultan said the government had examined all factors, including the strength of students in schools and the condition of schools, before deciding to reopen higher education institutes first and then the junior classes.
Urging all parents to ensure their children wore face masks, he said the government had issued preventative guidelines including reducing the density of students in a classroom. “The objective is that the number of students [present] on one day should be reduced so that the spread can be reduced,” he said.
Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani has said that schools in any area that witnesses a rise in coronavirus infections would be closed. Reiterating the phased reopening, he said face masks would be mandatory in schools, and strict action would be taken against any violations of SOPs.
In Punjab, Education Minister Murad Raas said classroom strength would be halved and all public and private schools would follow alternate day scheduling.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the provincial education department has decided to conduct random coronavirus tests of school staff and students to ascertain the presence of the virus and curb its spread.