ISLAMABAD : Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood on Monday announced the gradual opening of educational institutions across the country from September 15. Addressing a press conference along with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Dr Faisal Sultan in Islamabad on Monday, he said that they decided to gradually open the educational institutions and in this regard the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has decided that from September 15 higher education institutions, colleges and universities will be reopened, while school for ninth and tenth grade will also be allowed to reopen from September 15 under strict implementation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). The minister said that today is also a big day because we were waiting for the situation to improve so that the educational institutions could be reopened. Mahmood went on to say that NCOC did a lot of research and we also did research on how to move forward, adding that experts, think tanks, other agencies were consulted and situation in other regional countries was also reviewed, while data was collected from all provinces. “Consultation was also held between various schools chains and federal agencies,” he said. “I would like to thank the parents who have been patient for six months and today we have reached the point where we are gradually opening educational institutions from September 15,” said Shafqat Mahmood. The federal minister said that it is necessary to monitor the health of the children and after a seven-day review, classes from sixth to eighth would be opened from September 23. “On September 30, if the situation improves, all the primary schools will be reopened,” he added. Speaking on the occasion, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Dr Faisal Sultan said that the number of students in the classrooms will be kept low and it will be compulsory for the students to wear masks. Earlier today, Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC) had decided to reopen universities, colleges and school for matric students in the country from September 15. Federal Minister for Education and Vocational Training Shafqat Mahmood, chaired the conference on the issue. Ministers from all provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir attended the meeting. During the meeting it was decided that in first phase universities, colleges and school for ninth and tenth grade will be allowed to reopen from September 15 under strict implementation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and in second phase students of sixth to eight standard will be allowed to return to schools from September 22. Primary Schools will be allowed to reopen from September 30 in third phase. On the other hand, Prime Minister Imran Khan has summoned a session of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) today to discuss reopening of schools colleges and universities after country continues to see steady decline in coronavirus cases. In today’s session, the chief ministers of all four provinces, federal ministers, Special Assistants to PM, civil and military officials will be present and provide their input. The Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood will brief the NCC on the SOPs and suggestions regarding reopening of schools. The committee, in light of recommendations will take final decision.