ISLAMABAD: Schools and colleges in Pakistan will reopen from September 15 in a phased manner, the government announced on Monday amid a decline in the daily cases of the coronavirus.
The decision was taken at the inter-provincial education ministers' conference (IPEMC), chaired by Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood.
Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Mahmood said that in the first phase, all high schools, higher secondary schools and colleges, universities, and professional colleges would reopen to conduct classes from 9 to 12 am.
In the second phase, classes from sixth to eighth grades would start from September 23 after a review of the situation. Primary schools will reopen from September 30 in the last phase.
"We will reopen all these institutions in 15 days if things remain okay," he said.
Calling the reopening of educational institutions as a 'huge decision', the minister said that health experts conducted nation-wide surveys and also studied the regional and international situation before reaching a decision that schools should reopen.
The government took the decision as the number of coronavirus cases reached 298,903 after 394 new cases emerged in the last 24 hours.
Three coronavirus patients died in the same period, taking the death toll to 6,345, the Ministry of National Health Services said.
The ministry said 286,016 people have recovered from the disease, while 534 people were in critical condition.
The authorities have conducted 2,778,689 tests so far, including 20,980 in the last 24 hours. All education institutions were closed in mid-March after the pandemic broke out in the country. But officials announced to reopen them in September after reviewing the situation.
Since education is a provincial subject and all provinces and regions are free to take decisions on shutting and reopening of institutions, their representatives attended the meeting so that a consensus decision is taken, according to officials.
Mahmood had earlier said that a staggered approach would be followed to reopen more than 300,000 educational institutions across the country with more than 50 million students in a phased manner.