Recently the COVID-19 has endangered the entire world and everybody is at risk. Keeping in mind the health of all students and general public, all educational institutions including schools, colleges and universities halted all their activities officially on 16 March, 2020. Government of Pakistan announced about three weeks of holidays as precaution and has demanded people to self-isolate to prevent the virus from spreading further.
These holidays can be compensated in the coming days of summer vacation, as said by the government stake holders. But if the pandemic persists and health situation does not get any better, it will be a huge academic loss for the students all over Pakistan. Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) has made use of foresight in this regard. HEC has developed a databank of online courses for university students of all national and international levels. The faculty of the university has also been given the task of preparing virtual courses and lecture, as a part of their digital education program.
In addition to it, HEC has notified Vice Chancellors of all universities to make sure that their faculty and essential staff are undertaking necessary medical precaution during their activities. Prevention and precaution is a social responsibility for the welfare of the entire nation. HEC has issued thorough guidelines and instructions in this regard and has urged the respective sectors to pay due heed on it. The commission has also urged the responsible stakeholders, educated members and experts to share their knowledge and legitimate advice for the noble cause of eradication of the novel disease.
In an attempt to minimize academic disruption and ensure safety of the all faculty and non-faculty staff, HEC has issued the following guidelines:
- Universities must ensure the establishment of safety and security of all employees present in the university campus. These guidelines must be implemented with immediate effect strictly, circulated widely, and displayed prominently for the knowledge and convenience of the masses and reference of all university faculty and staff members.
- The Vice-Chancellors/Rectors/Heads/Deans of the Universities and DAIs should exercise their activities with discretion, in complete accordance to broader governmental directives, in regard to the schedule of attendance of the faculty and staff. In particular, faculty may be asked to attend the campus only when necessary for the preparation and delivery of online courses/content, with a view of minimizing any academic loss for the students.
- No large gatherings or get-togethers should be allowed on campus site during the period of lock-down implied by section 144 of the constitution. The number of participants in faculty/ staff meetings or training sessions should be restricted to a maximum of 20. During these meetings, safe distances should be maintained between all participants at all times, and all other precautionary/preventive measures should be observed strictly.
- A ban has been imposed on all external and unnecessary visitors to universities/DAIs until April 05, 2020. Public notices in this regard should be displayed visibly and comprehensively at entry gates/points, websites, and social media pages of universities, and announced on FM radios. Meanwhile, all general or specific public queries should be addressed through an effective online arrangement like online portal or email.
- The following sectors of faculty/staff members should be exempted from duty or should allowed to work from home if necessary:
- Non-vital staff.
- Faculty/staff over the age of 50, and a serious co-morbidity like cancer, diabetes or tuberculosis must not be allowed.
- Female employees from any department, who are pregnant or lactating.
- Any faculty/Staff with any symptom of illness like cough, flu, chills or fever or susceptibility to disease.
- Any staff/faculty with a travel history to or interaction with any infected object or residence in a country/area or territory reporting local transmission of COVID-19 or having contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case. They should be asked to self-isolate themselves in a quarantine for two weeks, and asked to work from home.
- Depending on only the necessary and vital workload, staff may be divided into groups, each attending campus on a alternate basis as per a clear well planned schedule. ix. Surveillance and monitoring systems (including contact and complaint registration) should be instituted to guarantee effective implementation of the all the prescribed guidelines.
- Universities and DAIs shall make adequate arrangements for the safe and secure housing of enrolled foreign students, in accordance with standards directed by leading health organizations like the World Health Organization.
Corona-virus has shattered the rhythmic academic activities but still, to minimize the loss and to use time efficiently HEC has developed a databank of online courses for university students. This effort is being admired by all public and media masses.