ISLAMABAD:The federal government announced reopening educational institutions across the country in phases from January 18, following a meeting of the federal and provincial education ministers.

Shafqat Mehmood said that classes 9th to 12th would start from January 18 while students of primary classes to 8th would head back to schools on January 25.

However, the higher education at the universities and colleges would resume from 1st February.

Speaking on the occasion, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan said they noted a decline in infection rate after the educational institutions were closed and urged the masses to keep following the safety protocols announced by the government.

The SAPM stated keeping in view the current data we decided to further delay the reopening of schools.

Mehmood said that the health of children is the most important thing for them and no compromise would be made on it.

The federal education minister said the administrative staff and teachers can resume their duties at schools, colleges and universities from January 11. “Online and home-based learning, can also be held from January 11,” he said.

He announced that board exams have been postponed till May and June as students did not have enough time to prepare for their exams.

Mehmood said that another meeting will be held on January 14-15 by the education ministers to review the health situation in the country. He reiterated that the decisions had been taken after consulting all provinces.

The federal government, on the recommendation of the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC), had closed educational institutions from November 26, 2020 to January 10, 2021.

Under that plan, schools were to reopen on January 11. But the rising spread of the novel coronavirus across the country had cast a shadow on that decision with federal and provincial education ministers saying that it was “unlikely” educational institutions would be allowed to reopen.

The final decision regarding the reopening of schools was taken after an advice from the health ministry on the matter. All the provincial ministers attended the meeting via video link.

It may be noted here that although education is a provincial matter, under the 18th Amendment, the provinces adopted Center’s policy owing to a Supreme Court decision directing for a uniformed policy to tackle the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

It may be added here that private schools associations across the country have opposed keeping schools shut.

On Thursday, a private school council demanded the government reopen schools on January 11 as planned and also sought an economic relief package. “The government should suspend the registration fee and taxes for a year.”