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Students, exams and politics!

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While writing a column I came across many news ideas. Thought once to pass on a comment on news that Ali Amin Gandapur is distributing cash before Azad Kashmir election and those who are claiming ‘transparency in polls’ are now trying to find excuses after being caught ‘red-handed’.

Imran Yaqub Khan Profile Imran Yaqub Khan

For me PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s grilling of PML-N was also an interesting topic that forced me to think that didn’t Bilawal recall when and where his party extended cooperation on the whims and wishes of those in power?  

Whether it’s the cooperation on letting Sadiq Sanjrani becoming the Senate chairman or is the move to reduce the PML-N seats during the Senate elections, or to seek the government’s help for getting former Prime Minister Sardar Yousaf Raza Gilani elected as Senator- Shah Mahmood Qureshi made Bilawal realized it on the floor of the house. The once again retaliatory tone of PML-N’s Maryam Nawaz during Azad Kashmir election campaign could also be the topic of opinion, but at this point of time the most important topic to me is the future of youngsters and the government’s “controversial” policy and “cold” attitude.

The PML-N walked out of the National Assembly session over exams controversy. MNA Khawaja Saad Rafique said on the floor of the house that Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood was approached with a request to cancel the exams, but the government has yet to respond. “The Opposition must be taken into confidence as to why the government wants to hold supplementary exams 45 days after taking one exam and failing students,” Rafique remarked. Upon this parliamentary secretary education Wajih Akram said exams in Balochistan have already been completed, these are continuing in Sindh so how it’s possible to postpone the ongoing exams? Rafique hastened to add that the government didn’t want to discuss with the opposition the postponement of exams and eventually PML-N and other opposition parties staged walkout from the Lower House.

After the matter was raised on the floor of the house, Federal Minister Shafqat Mahmood took to twitter, saying why the nationwide exams should be postponed and why those students who got their exams prepared be punished? He said those students who need more time for preparations could appear in the supplementary exams to be held under all boards after two to three months.

The ongoing tussle between the government and the opposition indicates they both are not willing to sit together, thanks to the new trends in political culture of mounting intolerance. Here a question arises if we have decided to sacrifice the future of Pakistan for the sake of egoism and stubbornness? It is quite painful that no one has taken this matter seriously so far that what’s the real problem of the students? Why they are taking to streets? Are they protesting over not be prepared for exams or they are facing real problems regarding their syllabi?

To understand their problem we take a look back in March last year when the decision was taken to close all educational institutes to contain spread of the coronavirus. More than 300,000 schools faced closure while education in colleges and universities also got affected. The expensive educational institutions in a few major cities including Karachi and Lahore though provided digital platforms to their students. But hundreds of thousands of students were unable to counter the new situation as they lacked smart phones and internet. And those who possessed smart phones could not avail 3G-4G networks in rural areas. The simple logic is Pakistan’s inability to cover the entire country with this technology.

According to a UNICEF report, around 22.8 million out of 70 million children in Pakistan are already out of schools, so access to education was already a problem for us and now in addition to poor-rich disparity the coronavirus pandemic has also created a visible difference as who can avail technological facilities and who can’t. And the same reason forced the university students to protest against online classes.

The biggest problem for online classes has appeared to be dis-connectivity due to poor infrastructure despite internet facility and it’s a continuous issue in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and Gilgit-Baltistan. Even the internet speed doesn’t support online classes in rural areas of Punjab. Broadband services are costly and cell phone possession is too not more than 51 per cent of the total population of the country. According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, only a million school students have access to digital services.   

The government adopted distant-learning system, as 40 million Pakistani kids have access to television, and an education project “Teleschool” was launched with $5 million World Bank grant. But how much effective could be this education learning programme- especially when the parents and students are not well-equipped for this- is not difficult to understand.

The government can easily conduct a survey either by approaching financially-poor families at their doorstep or conducting a survey to check availability of smart phones and use of 3G/4G technology. The information can be collected from those households where four to six kids go to school and only one smart phone is usually in the use of head of the family for official purposes.  

The educational institutes are now open and the students are facing extreme difficulties especially those who are about to appear in the secondary and intermediate board exams. While conducting exams without realizing the problems of students, the officials are now defending their stance that the students, who are not prepared, could appear in the supplementary exams. Is participation in the supplementary exam the only solution to facilitate students? The simple answer is that the government neither paid any heed to the students nor listened to the stance of the Opposition.

The Covid pandemic this year could be blamed for causing blow to the education and exams, but at least this is not only a warning for the people at the helms of affairs but also an opportunity to identify core problems in our education system. Nobody can say such pandemic will not strike us or we will not come across any such untoward happening, so we need to improve online and distant learning education on modern lines. We can get rid of ghost schools and untrained teachers only when the education system will be put on the path of latest trends.

This pandemic has taught us many lessons. The respective governments will have to formulate long-term policies to save the education system from the effects of any disaster like Covid in future. Side by side we also have to keep the most important role of teacher intact as the teacher is the only person who could bring discipline to the students as his role to educate them is always central.

In societies like us, majority students are not capable of learning and studying their own. With the advancement in the education system, there is a need to bring teachers at par with latest technology and required resources. The quality of education for better Pakistan should also be among the top priorities!  

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World

North Macedonia: Massive fire engulfs COVID hospital, kills ten patients

Skopje: At least 10 people were killed and many more injured after a massive fire broke at a hospital treating coronavirus patients in Tetovo, North Macedonia.

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The huge blaze erupted Wednesday night—claiming lives of ten. Fire services and rescue teams rushed to the scene and fought to douse the flames for a couple of hours.

It’s not yet clear how the large blaze started or how many patients were inside.

While the cause has yet to be established, the country's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev posted on social media that the fire had followed an on-site explosion.

Footage shared on social media showed a building in flames and a thick cloud of black smoke billowing into the air near a main road in the city of Tetovo.

The facility was reportedly built last year to help care for COVID-19 patients.

Tetovo deputy fire Chief, Saso Trajcevski said, "The fire was huge because the hospital is modular, there was plastic".

The fire occurred as the former Yugoslav republic celebrated the 30th anniversary of its independence, with festivities in the capital Skopje, including a military parade.

However, investigators have gone to the scene to determine the cause of Yesterday’s fire.

Meanwhile, North Macedonia has been battling a surge in COVID-19 cases recently with 701 new cases and 24 deaths in the past 24 hours.

It has recorded more than 6,100 fatalities in total since the start of the COVID outbreak.

Macedonia government had to impose stricter measures, in a bid to prevent the spread of virus.

North Macedonia has a population of around 2 million and its healthcare services are run down as hospitals are overwhelmed in some areas, particularly where vaccination rates are low.

Covid-19 hospitals in other countries have been hit by explosions followed by fires. In Iraq, dozens of people were killed in fires that occurred after oxygen cylinders exploded in April and July.

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Sports

Ramiz Raja becomes PCB chairman unopposed

Lahore: Veteran cricketer and former Test captain-turned commentator Rameez Raja has emerged as the next chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Monday.

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To elect the 36th PCB Chairman, a special meeting of the Board of Governors (BoG) took place today, (September 13) at the High Performance in Lahore.

The PCB Election Commissioner, Mr Justice (retd) Sheikh Azmat Saeed conducted the election, presiding over the meeting.

The members of the BoG including Mr Aasim Wajid Jawad, Ms Alia Zafar, Mr Asad Ali Khan, Mr Arif Saeed, Mr Javed Kurieshi, Mr Ramiz Raja and Mr Wasim Khan attended the special meeting.

At 1415 inside the Bob Woolmer Indoor School, NHPC, the newly-elected PCB Chairman will hold his media conference, which will be live-streamed on all PCB social media channels.

As per the PCB Covid-19 Protocols, which are designed to ensure health and wellbeing of all involved, only reporters and correspondents who are fully vaccinated and have immunisation certificates are invited to attend the media conference.

Moreover, TV news channels will be welcome to use PCB’s broadcast quality live-stream details of which will be shared shortly before the start of the media conference.

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Sports

Australia to cancel Afghan test if Taliban ban women's sports

Canberra: Cricket Australia Thursday issued an official notification, stating that they would cancel Test match against Afghanistan unless Taliban lift the reported ban on women’s sports.

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On its official twitter handle, Cricket Australia said that it will not host Afghanistan planned Test match in Hobart starting November 27, if news reports of Taliban views on the women’s game were true.

"If recent media reports that women's cricket will not be supported in Afghanistan are substantiated, Cricket Australia would have no alternative but not to host Afghanistan for the proposed Test match due to be played in Hobart," said Cricket Australia in its statement.

The Taliban, banned sports for women in the country saying, they don't think women will be allowed to play cricket as it’s not necessary for them to participate.

According to SBS, Ahmadullah Wasiq, deputy head of the Taliban's cultural commission said, “In cricket, women might face a situation where their face and body will not be covered”.

“Islam does not allow women to be seen like this," he stressed.

Meanwhile, players from Afghanistan women’s soccer team are among dozens of athletes who were given visas to live in Australia and have been undergoing quarantine amid coronavirus pandemic.

However, it is a move that could cost Afghanistan its status as a Test-playing nation.

Afghanistan has a national women's cricket team — but its status has been thrown into question along with every other woman in the country after the Taliban ousted the U.S.-backed government.

In August, Taliban allowed men’s cricket to continue and gave approval for the men’s national team to travel to Australia for a test match in November.

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