Govt to decide about opening of educational institutions on 27 March

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ISLAMABAD: Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood Wednesday said the government would decide about opening of educational institutions or further extending their closure date, after reviewing the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in the country on March 27.

A meeting of Inter-Provincial Ministers Conference (IPMC) had been called for March 27 for the purpose, the minister said while addressing a news conference.

All stakeholders, especially the Health Ministry and the departments concerned would be taken on board prior to taking any decision in that regard, he added.

Currently, he said, the world was facing the biggest challenge in its history as the virus had deteriorated the situation almost across the globe.

Shafqat said the prime minister had serious concerns about the prevailing situation in the wake of the COVID-19, adding that Imran Khan was worried for the safety of masses especially the children in current circumstances.

“It was epidemic disease which spread due to gathering, meetings, hand shaking so the government had taken numerous steps in order to keep distance among the people by banning marriage halls, suspending classes in educational institutions, religious gatherings and other public meetings” he added.

He appreciated the public, private and Madrassa school system for complying the government’s decision of closing the educational institutions till April 05.

Shafqat Mahmood said that more decisions had been taken in the IPMC meeting held Tuesday attended by the all provincial ministers, secretaries, representatives of educational boards, Higher Education Commission (HEC) and other concerned departments.

The IPMC meeting also decided to suspend all kind of exams of public, private and foreign schools including Cambridge Schools System till 1st of June, he informed.

“The decision of suspension of examination was mandatory for the predicable future of the children so that the students could be informed earlier” he said.

After, 1st of June the scheduled exams of all sector schools could be started in case of the situation improved, he told.

He said the IMPC meeting had also decided in consultation with HEC officials that the process of new admissions would also be delayed for a specific period as the exams had been suspended.

With the consultation of HEC, Shafqat said, all national students’ hostels had been vacated except the foreign students.

To a query regarding the faculties’ attendance in the educational institutions, the minister said that the teachers were not bound to come to schools, however, they would be called in case of any emergency.

A plan is also on card by the education ministry under which the students would be given lectures through Pakistan Television Network.

For these lectures, the teachers can be called to universities for the preparation of course contents, he added. They would have to visit their institutions in case of initiating online courses. He said that HEC had made various committees including technology support committee and content committee. These committees will prepare contents for the lectures to be aired on PTV.

The minister informed that all cultural programmes in the Lok Virsa had also been suspended.

He said that all steps were being taken in consultation with the provinces adding we were complying prime minister’s instructions in that regard. Shafqat said the government’s message was clear and all stake-holders were bound to follow the orders.

Meanwhile, the HEC has developed a databank of the online courses available at the national and international level and shared it with universities, while the university faculty has also been asked to prepare virtual courses for dissemination to students.

This was stated by Chairman Higher Education Commission (HEC) Tariq Banuri in a message on the prevailing situation created by coronavirus.

The Chairman said that coronavirus pandemic has endangered the entire world. As a precautionary measure, students of all the public sector universities have been given a three-week break under instructions by the Government. The ongoing vacations may be adjusted in the summer holidays, however if the prevailing situation persists, the online lectures activity will help avoid educational loss of students. In the meantime, faculty members will take advantage of the break to prepare online lectures for the students to mitigate the disruption in provision of education.

He requested all experts and highly educated persons, including faculty members, students, and staff of universities to use their advanced knowledge to keep abreast of the latest information about the coronavirus and share it with other people in their communities. Some information in this regard has been circulated among universities and is available at the HEC website. “People should be advised to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves against the virus.” This is a social responsibility of all educated persons with access to global media and expert knowledge. He said the people feeling ill should self-isolate themselves and limit their contact with people.

He urged the Vice Chancellors to follow the guidelines about precautions to protect essential staff and faculty from the virus. HEC has issued comprehensive guidelines in this regard, and has also taken precautionary measures at the HEC offices.

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