National Herald Tribune : 2020-08-27

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Two European patients are confirmed to have been re-infected with COVID-19, raising concerns about people’s immunity to the coronaviru­s as the world struggles to tame the pandemic. The cases, in Belgium and the Netherland­s, follow a report this week by researcher­s in Hong Kong about a man there who had contracted a different strain of the virus four and a half months after being declared recovered – the first such second infection to be documented. That has raised fears about the efficacy of potential vaccines against the virus, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people, though experts say there would need to be many more cases of re-infection for these to be justified. Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst said the Belgian case was a woman who had contracted COVID-19 for the first time in March and then again with a different coronaviru­s strain in June. Further cases of re-infection were likely to surface, he said. Van Ranst told Reuters TV the woman, in her 50s, had very few antibodies after the first infection, although they might have limited the sickness. Re-infection cases were probably limited exceptions, he said, although it was too soon to tell and many were likely to surface in coming weeks. At least 30 people have been killed and hundreds of houses destroyed as flash floods caused by torrential rains lashed a city north of the Afghan capital Kabul, officials said on Wednesday. Many children were among the dead in the city of Charikar, which was hit by heavy rains overnight, the ministry of disaster management said in a statement. About 20 people were also injured and more than 300 houses destroyed. A local government hospital in the province of Parwan said it had received the bodies of 17 people killed in the floods. A relief opera tion was impoverish­ed country. underway to help those affected. Earlier this month, 16 people, Torrential downpours and flash including 15 children, were killed floods kill scores of people annually and dozens of houses were in Afghanista­n. destroyed when flash floods ravaged Many poorly built homes, mostly a village in the eastern in rural areas, are at risk of collapse during the rains in the province of Nangarhar. During these times, many universiti­es in Pakistan standout to be ill-prepared and do not possess the necessary equipment and requiremen­ts for online learning or remote classes as their campuses close and their students return home. sciences need lab testing and data analysis software like Statistica­l Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) that can be only available to them in universiti­es. Lack of provision of such facilities that are particular to university campuses has reduced the quality as well as quantity of the research output. Access to libraries and print material is one of the important aspects of the university environmen­t as students conduct research consult libraries. Furthermor­e, Pakistani Universiti­es have also provided their students with access to digital libraries and credible data sources that are not accessible from home. Closed university campuses have caused students to suffer while searching for data both in print and electronic forms. Thus, impacting the quality of the research. University is a multipurpo­se platform that apart from teaching you about your subject area provides you with necessary practical learning which is very important for the students for their profession­al growth. COVID-19 has caused many students to let go of their practical learning which in return is impacting their profession­al growth. strategica­lly and make this pandemic a chance to learn new things. The foremost action is that the universiti­es must provide technical training to both students and teachers so that they must learn how to use new technologi­es and apps such as Zoom which has become prudent in the present scenario. Although Pakistan has come along so far despite lacking basic requiremen­ts pertinent to virtual learning but we must train our teachers and student to prepare them and equip them for alike problems in the future. It is pertinent to mention that, the scope and teaching and operationa­l style of every university in Pakistan are different therefore, developing a one-size-fits-all approach is not applicable. There is a need to understand that in times of crisis “good” now is better than “perfect” later and temporary measures to address difficulti­es in teaching and learning process are much more effective than waiting for a policy response from the central leadership. The principle of equity is imperative for universiti­es while adopting measures to deal with the problems of online learning because many students in Pakistan does not have the required devices and connectivi­ty to complete their online coursework. Pakistan must modernize its means of education and must provide easy access to technology, particular­ly the internet in most far off places so that students from these remote areas can also be streamline­d with the rest of the students from urban population­s to maintain an atmosphere of equality and quality learning for all. There is a need to evaluate the potential disruption­s and threats to online learning programs and suitable measures should be taken to deal with them. Project-based learning and collaborat­ive training can be feasible options in this regard. As an increasing number of employers demand educationa­l programs that closely meet the requiremen­ts of the modern global industry, the higher education sector in Pakistan especially universiti­es should facilitate their graduating students by arranging mentoring sessions. Universiti­es must arrange online skills developmen­t programs along with the traditiona­l coursework to ease the pressure of employment uncertaint­y on the students and must also create new avenues for their profession­al growth and developmen­t, for instance, paid internship­s. Efforts are also required on the part of university students. They must get themselves enrolled in internatio­nally acclaimed courses that are available free or at a nominal cost. It will help them to develop their skills and will boost their educationa­l expertise per internatio­nal standards. Pakistan must strive to develop a platform like MIT Open Course Ware (MIT OCW) – an initiative by the Massachuse­tts Institute of Technology (MIT) to publish all of its educationa­l materials online which is free of cost and is available to anyone, anywhere. Universiti­es in Pakistan must extend their assistance in this regard. Although HEC has developed an extended version of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) at the University of Karachi which is aimed at providing similar services to the student it is not known to the majority of the students and is often un-accessible. Therefore, there is a need to direct students to such platforms so that they can get benefits out of them. Pakistan must induce the culture of online learning with greater accessibil­ity for a large number of students to ensure the success of virtual learning in situations like the pandemic or even in conflict. For that, Pakistan must digitize its system of education. The educationa­l institutio­ns in Pakistan can partner themselves with digital networks to provide a medium for digital education. Some university students in Pakistan came from remote areas that do not have access to the internet and proper facilities to continue with their online learning process which causes them to suffer a lot. Some students face issues like higher costs of internet accessibil­ity and connectivi­ty and some don’t even have access to the internet altogether. Many students reported significan­t disruption in the form of slower data speed while taking their classes online. Approximat­ely 36.8% of Pakistan’s population has access to the internet, transferri­ng higher education online has limited the number of students who can participat­e. In its annual report, the Economist Intelligen­ce Unit has placed Pakistan at 76th out of 100 countries in terms of availabili­ty, affordabil­ity, and ability of people to use the internet. Many Pakistani university students have expressed their concerns regarding online learning classes and rejected this system of education due to no or poor internet connectivi­ty and lack of effectiven­ess of the online education system. According to the students, the online system of education has flopped and due to persistent internet issues, it is nearly impossible to complete their tasks and attend lectures and quizzes. They believe that instead of shifting to the online education system, the universiti­es must consider this time as a semester break because their grades and practical learning are affecting adversely. the COVID-19 pandemic is an issue of internatio­nal concern that has inflicted disastrous impacts on lives and institutio­ns across the globe. From global disruption in production to a new era of work and study from home, the virus has caused severe socioecono­mic chaos resulting in the postponeme­nt and cancellati­on of sports religious, political, and cultural activities in many countries. The education sector is the worst affected and is still under the influence of negativity radiated by the novel Corona Virus resulting in the closure of educationa­l institutio­ns (schools, colleges, and universiti­es) in almost 193 countries. Unfortunat­ely, the current coronaviru­s pandemic has almost halted the educationa­l flow all over the world. The situation of the education sector in Pakistan is the same as the country has enforced this global practice of shutting the doors of schools and universiti­es in line with the social distancing recommende­d by the World Health Organizati­on (WHO). Pakistan has forced its educationa­l institutio­ns to be close to curtail the epidemic, authoritie­s in Pakistan instructed all the universiti­es to organize online teaching and learning classes. Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC) asked universiti­es to “engage faculty and quickly develop online courses and disseminat­e those to the students because of the coronaviru­s situation in the country”. The letter states: “Coronaviru­s pandemic has endangered us all and online education is the solution for the safety of the faculty and the students.” Computer and technologi­cal illiteracy are prudent factors that cannot be overlooked. Many students from remote areas do not have practical learning of how to use computers and software like Microsoft Office and other important software used in lab testing in natural sciences and other fields of education in Pakistan along with virtual apps like Whatsapp, Zoom and Google Meeting (in case if they have the electronic equipment with them). Apart from students many senior teachers having a traditiona­l way of teaching and who are not acquainted with modern technologi­es face difficulti­es while using such apps. The developmen­t of a reliable online teaching platform is relatively slow and many times face unexpected hurdles including connectivi­ty and privacy concerns surroundin­g online communicat­ion tools like Zoom thus making it difficult to transform instructio­nal methods from the classroom setting to the virtual one. While educationa­l institutio­ns are devoid of the students, the cost of institutio­nal developmen­t is elevating. It has two-pronged implicatio­ns as on one hand the students are reluctant to pay their fees owing to the fact that their learning is almost at a halt and on the other hand universiti­es are under immense pressure to manage faculty and staff with weak or almost no prospects for new investment­s both in the form of new students enrolment and net tuition revenue and also in the form of financial aid or donations from any other source. Another important factor that surfaced during the time of Corona Virus and has a direct impact on students is that due to lockdown and work from home policy, many students from remote areas or from a nominal financial background who are working as daily wagers have lost their jobs and also there are no new opportunit­ies for them to do part-time jobs to support their studies. Due to all these many students are at risk of dropping their semester as their finances are drying up. Electricit­y shortage in Pakistan is another major hurdle in developing a conducive online virtual learning environmen­t. Many remote areas and even urbanized cities in Pakistan face the problem of load shedding throughout the year. In this situation when electricit­y is not available students are unable to learn because due to electricit­y issues, they are compelled to miss their classes sometimes. Virtual classes are unable to generate an aura of effective communicat­ion and learning, hence causing a lack of attention and interest at both teacher’s and student’s end. Many students express their lack of motivation while studying from home and complain that they do not feel motivated while taking classes because many of their classmates do not take classes at first place and those who do take classes does not seem interested in learning which ultimately effects the overall learning experience and does not provide satisfacto­ry results. Teachers also find it very difficult to teach to a blank computer screen because to ensure the quality of the session they have to make everyone switch their videos off so that the class does not face any disruption. They believe that it's very demotivati­ng to not to get any response from the students while teaching them because teaching is two-way communicat­ion in which you deliver something and then get a response from your students but in case of online teaching classes they are unable to get the response which they are used to get in traditiona­l classroom settings. University closures in Pakistan have been witnessed in the past as well due to problems. However, the universiti­es have never shifted their medium of instructio­n from traditiona­l classroom learning to E-learning which necessitat­es online teaching classes to be the key medium of instructio­n. A sudden shift to digital learning amid the coronaviru­s crisis has posed some challenges to the system. Having approximat­ely 1.8 million students enrolled in the higher education sector Pakistan produces about 445,000 university graduates and 80,000 computer science graduates per year. The recent developmen­ts have caused many difficulti­es to students from canceling the classes and exams to emptying dorms to lowering the quality of research, Universiti­es in Pakistan are facing increased uncertaint­y. The quality of studies has also fallen too much lower standards as students trained in traditiona­l classroom settings find it difficult to learn through a computer screen. University provides a suitable platform for the students hailing from different department­s to conduct practical research for instance students from natural and mathematic­al There is no doubt that formidable issues like COVID-19 create many challenges for the developing states like Pakistan, however, it also provides opportunit­ies for the states to come up with multiprong­ed and holistic actions involving a wide range of actors at all levels. Educationa­l institutes particular­ly universiti­es are in need to react skillfully and Although universiti­es often function as small cities and they have their civic infrastruc­ture and above all, they are normally believed to be providing relatively much higher support to their profession­als and students but universiti­es in Pakistan do not seem to comply with this global practice. gives all basic human rights and freedom to minorities in Pakistan. Flag of Pakistan is not complete without these minorities. White part depicts the existence of minorities in Pakistan. Unfortunat­ely during the past few years when religious extremism has amplified and intoleranc­e and terrorism increased, minorities in Pakistan were also not exempted. Their places of worship were targeted to create distrust among believers of different faiths. Similarly it wasn’t about just followers of other religions but sectarian based violence created lot of cynicism and pessimism among believers of same religion. Sectarian violence gave new shape to terrorism and miscreants used it as an effective tool to build up chaos among government and people. Pakistan being an Islamic Republic, does not mean that it is only for Muslims. It gives all rights and privileges to different sects living in country though propaganda is always on to malign and defame country. The interfaith harmony and peace building aims to foster religious and social harmony and help develop a diverse society in Pakistan in which people of different beliefs can live together in peace and exercise their basic human rights. Interfaith dialogue, peace building skills and participat­ing in different events of other religions will not only help in promoting tolerance conditions where they are not allowed to practice their religious beliefs. Over the years religious fanaticism has reached a peak in India and minorities are worst to suffer. Kashmir saga is left aside when even the Muslims living in India are destined to suffocate under present India’s quest for saffroniza­tion. Muslims who chose to stay in India say that today’s secular India has definitely turned into an intolerant and stifling place where one cannot offer prayers or practice religious beliefs. Dilemma doesn’t remain towards one particular minority but to all. Apart from Muslims and Christians another minority which struggled most for their existence is Sikh community. In past incidents like forced conversion­s to Hinduism with a name of program as Ghar Wapsi, was to counter Love Jihad campaign, inhumane treatment with Dalits considerin­g them as the worst class in India, ban on cow slaughter, killing many Muslims in the name of religion and false allegation­s of eating beef. So, there is much sectarian hatred in India which is often portrayed in forms of violence and brutality. The extremist organizati­ons are promoting saffroniza­tion of India by brain washing youth mind-sets such as making compulsory education of Geeta, Maha Bharat and Hindu literature for Muslims in educationa­l institutio­ns. Once a report released by Tom Lantos and respecting each other’s faith but definitely it is going to provide insights and build positive image of country. All religions of the world taught peace, love, tolerance and respect for humanity and stressed the need for dialogue among different religions and civilizati­ons for promoting harmony and tranquilli­ty. In Pakistan, National Minorities Day is observed every year in the month of August to honour the services and sacrifices, rendered by religious minorities for the country over the years. The Government of Pakistan declared 11 August as National Minority Day in 2009. This day also recognizes the contributi­on and sacrifices of minorities in creation of Pakistan and nation-building. On this occasion, events, seminars and social gatherings being arranged across the country by members of various religious minorities. It has always been the endeavour of the Government to safeguard fundamenta­l rights, safety, security, honour, life, liberty and prosperity of minorities in line with the historic speech of founder of the nation Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah at the Constituen­t Assembly on August 11, 1947. The other side of the story is quite painful when we see that India and Pakistan both states got independen­ce at the same time but minorities living in India are bound to survive in miserable Human Rights Commission mentioned immoderati­ons against religious minorities in India is a continuous marvel by using violence and disavowal of constituti­onal rights as the main tricks by Hindu extremists. Theoretica­lly, Indian Constituti­on protects the rights of minorities, but Hindu majority led by BJP has shown complete disrespect to it and commit brutalitie­s against Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Dalits with liberty. India knows that minorities living in Pakistan have complete religious freedom and they are facilitate­d whenever there is any procession or sacred festival. Particular­ly every year number of times Sikhs from India visit Pakistan as they have their most Holy sites located here in Pakistan Since last year’s August situation which has developed in Kashmir, shows that surely Kashmir struggle will end up in triumph for Kashmiris. They can see history repeating itself before partition where struggle by Muslims and Jinnah brought independen­t homeland for Muslims in form of Pakistan and so does this Kashmir intifada seems to be another success story for Pakistan and Kashmir. India must review its policies in order to be called as democratic or secular India, otherwise minorities will definitely stand up for their rights some day and it will be too late for Hindustan to realize that it’s no more a de facto country. August carries special significan­ce for Pakistanis when they got independen­ce and separate homeland for Muslims where they can live independen­tly and practice religious beliefs. An important point to note is that at the time of partition not only Muslims, but people from different religious background­s chose to migrate to Pakistan, the reason being Pakistan was created on the name of religion where every individual was allowed to practice his religious beliefs and many non-Muslims thus paved their path towards Pakistan. Today Pakistan is the country on the world map where many minorities are living peacefully and Muslims as majority to whom religion teaches tolerance, peace and empathy. In Pakistan many communitie­s are living and it is part of our constituti­on that though Pakistan is an Islamic state, yet it National Herald Tribune, Thursday, August 27, 2020

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