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PCAN concerned by COVID-19 impact on education sector

Dimapur, April 23: The Private College Association Nagaland (PCAN) has expressed fear over the financial sustainability of private educational institutions in the State if the shutdown of schools and colleges is continued for too long.
In a memorandum to Chief Secretary, Nagaland, the PCAN highlighted that there are about 23,000 students enrolled in some 44 private colleges, and that they employ about 1,090 teachers and 640 staffs.
Thus, other than providing quality education, we form an important part of the State’s economic chain, it said.
“If containment and safety is not assured for too long, and if the shutdown of schools and colleges is continued consequently, we fear for the financial sustainability of the private institutions, which in turn will adversely impact the pay and salary of the teachers and staff that we employ. This will impact thousands more, who in turn, are dependent upon them. The Government may kindly look into this aspect,” it appealed.
Sharing some concerns in the field of higher education due to the lockdown, the PCAN said while the association is trying its best to keep their students updated with their studies and lessons through online platforms and other ICT means, it reminded that many students are outside the online loop on account of poor internet connectivity within the State in general, or for some, because they could not afford a smart phone.
“Thus in spite of various directives from higher authorities for educational institutions to switch over to online classes, it cannot be a full substitute for traditional classrooms. Re-opening of educational institutions at the earliest is thus of great importance. But as and when it is deemed safe to do so. We are ready to fully cooperate with the Government in this regard, in whatever way possible.”
As soon as the situation allows, the PCAN also wanted that conduct of University semester examinations, earlier scheduled for start by first week of April 2020, may first be considered before reopening regular classes.
And as and when exams will be conducted and classes re-open, it requested that strict safety protocol guidelines be given for the Institutions to follow. It also sought equipment and health workers assistance for daily/regular screening of students, faculty and staff.
Expressing concern with the academic progress, welfare and well being of students, who come from all parts of the State, as well as beyond, the PCAN lamented that the lockdown has stranded many students in different locations. It, however, appreciated the efforts made by the State Government to extend help to all stranded students, and hoped that the Government will not neglect their plight till normalcy returns.
Stating that post Covid-19, usage of online tools, video conferencing classrooms etc. would become more necessary, it said Nagaland institutions should also not be left behind, and requested the Government for financial assistance to colleges to upgrade such ICT facilities as well.
It also requested that during such times of uncertainty, the State Government, the Nagaland University and the Higher Education Department, should assure our children and student community that their futures are also being looked into, with specific steps being taken and directions. “We do not wish to see an academic year being lost for no fault of theirs,” it stated.
To contain the virus, and to restore normalcy with safety at the earliest, the PCAN said the State Government needs to urgently step up its preparedness of testing, tracing, isolation and treatment standards, including availability of adequate safety equipment.
If this can be done, based on region-wise classification, decision for reopening of regular classes in the NE or Nagaland can be done separately from other region(s), it suggested.
The PCAB opined that the Nagaland Government may, with transparency and hard work, maintain its credibility so that trust and confidence in it by her citizens can be nurtured. “This is a time and opportunity, that we feel the Government should renew its social contract with the citizens in more concrete ways.”
The association further re-iterated its concern for students and support for the measures that the Government is taking and may take in the days to come in its fight to contain the virus. (Page News Service)