All secondary, higher secondary and university-level educational institutions in Bangladesh will reopen for physical classes on February 22, with strict Covid-safety protocols in place.

The decision has been taken in view of the declining Covid cases across Bangladesh, Education Minister Dipu Moni told reporters at the Secretariat on Thursday.

"Students aged 12 and above who have been vaccinated with the second dose of a Covid vaccine will be able to physically attend classes, while those who have jabbed only with the first dose will attend online classes," she said.

At the same time, preparations are being made to reopen primary schools in another two weeks, said Dipu Moni.

"In-person classes at primary schools will remain closed for another 10 to 14 days. Measures are being taken to vaccinate children below 12 years. The Health and Family Welfare Ministry and the Directorate General of Health Services are looking into the WHO approval issues," she added.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education has already prepared the list of students eligible for Covid jabs at all primary schools, according to the Minister.

So far, 1,26,57,222 students have received the first Covid shot, while 34,40,448 have got the second dose of a Covid vaccine.

Asked if the number of classes will increase after the reopening of schools, Dipu Moni said, "We will try to increase the number of classes as the infection rate declines."

SSC, HSC exams to be held in June-August

Dipu Moni also hinted at the possibility of holding this year's Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and equivalent examinations and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and equivalent examinations between June and August.

"Exams will be held with shortened syllabus. Whether subjects will be reduced for the exams or not will be decided after the dates are finalised," she said.

According to the government's academic calendar, SSC examinations are held from February 1 and HSC examinations from April 1 every year. However, these exams were not held in time in the past two years.

On Wednesday, the Education Minister said that a decision on the reopening of schools would be taken after a meeting with Covid-19 advisory committee later in the night.

On January 21, the government announced that all schools and colleges in Bangladesh will remain closed from January 21 to February 6 amid a renewed surge in Covid-19 cases largely due to the new Omicron variant.

The shutdown was extended till February 20 for the safety of the students as the virus continued to spread.

The following day, the Education Ministry issued an 11-point directive, including the resumption of online classes for schools and colleges.

Besides, the vaccination of students, aged between 12 and 17 years, against Covid-19 was directed to be continued following the health guidelines in coordination with the zonal offices of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, District Education Offices, Upazila Secondary Education Offices, local administrations and Civil Surgeons.

After a 17-month Covid-induced closure, the students in Bangladesh returned to their classrooms on September 12 last year.

The government shut the educational institutions on March 17, 2020, after the country reported its first Covid-19 cases on March 8 and later the closure was extended several times.

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