Educational institutions to reopen on Sept 15

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ISLAMABAD: It’s official: the nationwide educational institutions will reopen on September 15 after the coronavirus-induced five months closure.

However, the administrations will have to strictly enforce on campus the standard operating procedures set by the government to prevent the infection from spreading. The announcement was made by federal education minister Shafqat Mahmood during a news conference on Thursday after approval by the National Command Operation Centre, which monitors coronavirus incidence in the country and orders action to contain the virus.

“The schools, colleges and universities both government and privately-owned ones will resume operation from September 15 with coronavirus SOPs in place.However, the decision may be withdrawn if the virus outbreak worsens. We [NCOC] will review the situation by the end of August to decide about the matter,” the minister said.

The presser comes a day after the Centre and provinces decided about the reopening of educational institutions across the country in September subject to the national health services ministry and NCOC’s nod.

The government had closed schools, colleges, universities and seminaries across the country in March as part of measures to slow down the spread of coronavirus. All examinations were also suspended.

Shafqat Mehmood said educational institutions would have to clean up premises and train staff about SOPs for coronavirus prevention and control. He warned that any school or college found to be violating those procedures would be closed down.

The minister said the federal government had also decided to allow educational institutions, organisations and boards to reschedule examinations — that were delayed in March — in July before Eidul Azha.

He said SOPs would have to be followed by schools and colleges and that different proposals were under consideration to decide about the anti-virus measures to be put in place. Shafqat Mehmood said it had been proposed that by the end of July or after Eidul Azha, universities allow PhD students to access laboratories to continue with their research.

“Universities may decide on the matter in accordance with SOPs,” he said. The minister said the educational institutions would first call students of higher classes and if things went ahead smoothly, then lower graders would also resume attending classes.

He asked the provincial governments to formulate and enforce own precautionary measures to ensure that the virus does not spread among students. Shafqat Mehmood acknowledged that many students had suffered due to unavailability of Internet service and thus, missing out on online classes.

“To make up for the loss, the government will allow university students to use hostels after Eidul Azha. However, the hostel occupancy rate should not exceed 30 per cent,” he said. The minister said university hostels could accommodate students from far-flung areas.

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