ISLAMABAD: As schools shut down in the twin cities following a government directive to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus amongst students, private educational establishments have urged the government to at least allow their teachers to visit the facilities to be able to conduct online classes.
All Pakistan Private Schools and Colleges Association (APPSCA) President Malik Ibrar Hussain on Wednesday stated that not all teachers either had the requisite internet connections, computing facilities, or even the space at their homes to hold online classes. Hence, they need access to computer laboratories or other facilities at the schools to be able to effectively hold classes.
Hussain pointed out that if bus terminals, railway stations and markets are running normally, the government can show some leniency to the extent of teachers and staff on the closure of educational institutions.
He went on to argue that only educational institutions and marriage halls have been shut, which does not reduce the risk of the coronavirus, and demanded a permanent solution to the pressing issue which is likely to recur every year like other seasonal diseases.
The APPSCA president further said that the examination results of nearly half of the 2,500 private educational institutions in the federal capital have not been released owing to the unprecedented closure on account of coronavirus.
Parents are worried about undeclared results of their children and the delay in the start of the new academic session, he added.
While the government has announced automatic promotion for all children studying n grades one through seven, the APPSCA president said both schools and parents are still confused over the declaration of results.
Just as Hussain said that crowds of people continue working as normal in private and government offices, including the secretariat, the federal government has announced that only essential staff will be allowed in the offices in the red zone.
HEC develops online course database
To assist educational institutions in developing digitally communicable courses within a short period, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has developed a database of online courses.
These courses will be available at the national and international level and will be shared with universities. Despite the availability of these courses, university faculty have been asked with preparing virtual courses for dissemination to students.
This was stated by HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri in a message on the situation created by COVID-19.
The HEC chairman said that the coronavirus pandemic has endangered the entire world. As a precautionary measure, students of all public sector universities have been given a three-week break under instructions from the federal government.
The on-going vacations may be adjusted as part of the summer holidays. If the prevailing situation persists, online lectures will help avoid an educational loss for students.
In the meantime, faculty members have been asked to take advantage of the break by preparing a body of online lectures for their students to mitigate the disruption in the provision of education.
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.
No restriction on legal VoIP
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has announced that all educational institutions and online businesses can use legal Voice over Internet Protocols (VoIP), Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and video conferencing applications to carry on their online activities without any restrictions.
A statement issued by the authority stated apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, Google Meets, Zoom, Blue Jeans, Cisco WebEx, Team viewer and Meraki VPN are available to be used for virtual education and businesses.
However, PTA said that per Telecom Rules and Regulations, the authority will take action against individuals and organisations who use VoIP and VPNs for illegal traffic which causes loss to the exchequer.
Principal booked for violating ban
The Fateh Jang police on Wednesday booked the principal of a private institution for allegedly holding regular classes at this establishment in clear violation of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) preventive measures announced by the government.
Sources said that the city police received a complaint that the Wajid Memorial School was holding regular classes for boys and girls in violation of the ban.
On receiving the complaint, a police squad raided the school and found dozens of students studying at the school. On seeing the police squad, the school’s principal fled.
The Fateh Jang police registered a case against the school’s principal under section 188 of the Pakistan Panel Code.
(With additional input by DNA)
Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2020.