The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has developed a databank of 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 students.
This was stated by Chairman Higher Education Commission (HEC) Tariq Banuri in a message on the prevailing situation due to coronavirus.
The chairman said that the 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 situation persists, the online lectures will help avoid the 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.
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.
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 on 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 and limit their contact with people.
HEC has also issued guidelines for faculty and staff attendance in universities and degree awarding institutions (DAIs) during COVID-19 Outbreak which include:
- The objective of these guidelines is to ensure the safety and security of faculty and non-faculty employees of the Universities and DAIs during the COVID-19 outbreak, while minimizing academic disruption. These guidelines are in addition to any instructions issued by the health agencies of the federal and provincial governments.
- Universities should establish and ensure safety and security of all employees attending the campus in accordance with the comprehensive HEC Guidelines for Universities and DAIs on COVID-19 (attached herewith). These guidelines should be implemented strictly, circulated widely, and displayed prominently for the convenience and reference of all university faculty and staff members.
- Universities should establish and ensure safety and security of all employees attending the campus in accordance with WHO/HEC COVID-19 guidelines. Comprehensive HEC Policy/Guidelines for Universities and DAIs on COVID-19 attached herewith should be implemented strictly, circulated widely, and displayed for convenience and reference of all university faculty and staff members.
- The Vice-Chancellors/Rectors/Heads of the Universities and DAIs may exercise their discretion, within the ambit of broader governmental directives, in regard to the schedule of attendance of the faculty and staff. In particular, faculty may be asked to attend campus only when required for the preparation and delivery of online courses/content, with a view to minimizing any academic loss for the students.
- No large gatherings should be allowed on campus during the period of lockdown. The number of participants in faculty/ staff meetings or training sessions should be restricted to 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 is imposed on all external visitors to universities/DAIs until April 05, 2020. Public notices in this regard should be displayed 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.
- The following categories of faculty/staff members should be exempted from duty or allowed to work from home:
- Non-essential staff.
- Faculty/staff over 50 years of age, and a serious co-morbidity, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc
- Female employees (faculty/staff), who are pregnant or lactating.
- Faculty/Staff with any symptom of illness or susceptibility to disease.
- Staff/faculty with travel history to 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 for two weeks, and allowed to work from home.
- Depending on the essential workload, staff may be segregated into groups, each attending campus on a rotational basis as per a clear schedule. ix. Surveillance and monitoring systems (including contact and complaint registration) should be instituted to guarantee effective implementation of the prescribed guidelines.
- Universities and DAIs shall make complete arrangements for the safe and secure housing of enrolled foreign students, in accordance with the WHO/standard guidelines