Karachi – November 13, 2020: The Faculty of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences (FLAHS), Ziauddin University (ZU) conducted its First Multidisciplinary Two-Day International Virtual Conference “Diversity, Inclusion and Equity: Synergies and challenges in the wake of Covid-19” in collaboration with National Academy of Higher Education, HEC, Islamabad. Conference was broadcasted live on ZU’s Facebook page.
Through this conference, ZU provided a platform to all national and international researchers to represent their research papers by conducting this two-day international conference, also the purpose of this conference is to bring together the varied expertise and interests of academia and representatives of key sectors such as business and health at one platform in order to discuss, debate and dialogue on social issues that are particularly relevant in the wake of the Covid-19.
On the first day of the conference keynote speaker Prof. Dr. Shaheen Sardar Ali, Rector, National Academy of Higher Education, HEC Islamabad, while representing her research paper about the responses to the Covid-19 pandemic in the higher education sector by the National Academy of Higher Education (NAHE) under the auspices of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan.
She critically analysed the challenges as well as the opportunities of the pandemic and its unintended consequences. On the positive aspects, the paper argues that in addition to substantive content on teaching and learning, research and academic governance, the transformation to online delivery of the program forced new skills and competencies upon the participants.
On the challenging aspects, she discovered that women with caring responsibilities working from home brought yet a further burden as they were forced to look after young children, attend to their daily needs, facilitate children’s online learning, household chores as well as engage with their capacity building program. Women employees globally, worked under these unforeseen pressures and constraints and with little or no support from employers.
The paper therefore also seeks to highlight these gaps and lack of any coherent policy of addressing this highly gendered workplace scenario under the work from home policy. Finally, the paper raises the issue of how the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the gap between those with access to the internet and those deprived of it – with all its attendant consequences.
Discussing the Covid-19 situation and education Dr. Shaheen Sardar said “we are all in the same boat, all the students around the globe are facing issues in online education. Not only students but teachers and faculty members are also facing issues due to Covid-19 Pandemic. This pandemic has shaken us all and of course it is affecting our education systems. However, in Pakistan HEC somehow managed to restart our education system by providing an option of an online readiness where students can get an access to all the live and recorded lectures.”
“We have received complaints from the students of remote areas that they do not have internet access to continue their online education. HEC has taken notice of all the complaints on an urgent basis and we are working on this issue”, said Prof. Dr. Shaheen while talking about the barriers in online readiness.
Dr. Nida Hussain, Pro Chancellor Ziauddin University emphasizes that Ziauddin University is committed to authentic, multidisciplinary research and its efficient mobilization to benefit society as a whole.
In her address, Dr. Nida Hussain said “as such, we take immense pride in offering Ziauddin University’s forum for debates and intellectual discussions in all disciplines. Moreover, the University recognizes and encourages a trans-border exchange of ideas and initiatives as the need of the hour, and a significant milestone to be achieved by national and international communities, particularly in these troubled times. Hence, I am confident that this conference will pave the way for similar debates and dialogue among representatives of key sectors in academia and industry also in the coming years”.
Baela Raza Jamil, CEO, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), Center for Education and Consciousness, on the topic of “Covid-19 When Learning Never Stopped – mobilizing communities and students for action” stated “Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global emergency that affected every single field of life including education services. 188 countries of the world abruptly shut down their education systems affecting more than 1.6 billion students including 40 million in Pakistan (UNESCO 2020).
“The pandemic has pushed state and non-state educators to redesign learning actions and platforms through blended approaches of face to face and distance digital solutions, more holistic, accelerated, cost effective and human above all”, she added.
Prof. Dr. Frances Schoonmaker, Professor Emerita Teachers College, Columbia University, USA, while speaking about “Rethinking Access and Equity in Education” she said “educators will not be able to erase the self-perpetuating effects of inequity, lack of access to education services, and racial injustice until they find ways of addressing the cultural myths embedded in our various personal and national histories”
While expressing her full confidence she advised the conference participants to examine their own histories and to trace the emergence of discriminatory practices toward women and minorities that are passed on to prospective teachers and the students these teachers will influence and that continue to undermine educational opportunity in our several contexts.
Dr. Caroline Manion, Senior Lecturer, Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education, Collaborative Specialization in Comparative, International and Development Education, OISE, University of Toronto, Canada, discussing the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Educational Equity Around the World: Mapping the Immediate and Longer-term Implications said that the COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest and longest global disruption of school-based education in modern history. Almost every country in the world has experienced school closures, affecting well over a billion children.
“Thus, closing schools to mitigate transmission risks and help ensure public health and safety has widely been seen as a necessary policy response, research to date indicates that school closures have disproportionately affected already vulnerable populations and have compounded and exacerbated gaps in educational equity based on gender, race/ethnicity, socio-economic status and geographic location”, Dr. Manion further added.
In his welcome address, Prof. Dr. Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, Vice Chancellor, Ziauddin University extended appreciation to keynote speakers, researchers and panelists of the conference by saying “this is indeed a rare occasion where the boundaries have been blurred and we all have come together to address the challenges posed by Covid-19, and build on the synergies built during these trying times to make the world a better place to live in. Ziauddin University seeks to enhance and expand learning in all disciplines and across disciplines as well. It is with this spirit that we have designed a multi-disciplinary approach to draw insights, strategies, and implications for the post Covid world.”
Earlier, while discussing the conference highlights Prof. Dr. Fauzia Shamim, Dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and Conference Chair said “Covid-19 brought for us, as for everyone else, the urgent need for access to digital resources and literacy to use these resources; in the process it has brought to the fore issues of access and equity both in education and health sectors. The positive side of the story is that all this has spurred a phenomenal level of activity both in research and in efforts at the grass roots level to address the disparities created by the digital divide between haves and the have-nots as shared by the presenters in session one of the conferences”
The Conference includes keynote and plenary speakers and invited talks by eminent scholars from USA, UK, Canada, Qatar, Costa Rica, Brazil, India and Pakistan. A wide range of topics are being covered in various formats including, multidisciplinary plenary session, panel discussions and paper presentation. Papers presented by the researchers including Kashif Iqbal, Dr. Samina Ashraf, Punjab University; Azra Naseem, Fatima Ahsan, Razia Fakir Mohammad, Tesneem Anwar, Sohail Ahmed, Aga Khan University: Marium Farooq, AKU-IED; Fatima Javed, Ruquia, NED University; M. Hasan Abbasi, Bahria University.