The Virtual Meeting of SAARC Ministers of Education/Higher Education on education sector’s response to COVID-19 was held yesterday in Kathmandu.
Convened by the Government of Nepal, the Conference had participation from all the Member States. Giriraj Mani Pokharel, Minister for Education, Science and Technology of Nepal, chaired the meeting.
In his opening remarks, Minister referred to the huge disruption the pandemic has caused on the education system in the region and called on the Member States to work together to overcome this challenge. He also described how Nepal’s education sector has responded to the pandemic.
In their country statements, Ministers and Heads of Delegation explained the measures taken to respond to Covid-19 in their respective countries. They recognized that the Government agencies and other stakeholders had been resourceful in quickly adopting distance learning through a combination of platforms such as radio, TV, mobile and online. They asserted that the disruption caused by the pandemic was an opportunity to rethink the future of education and to create more resilient education systems in the region.
During the Conference, the delegations discussed the importance of regional cooperation in addressing the adverse impacts of the pandemic on education, including through sharing of knowledge, especially through digital learning platforms.
The country delegations were headed by Abdul Tawab Balakarzai, Deputy Minister for Academic Affairs, Ministry of Higher Education of Afghanistan Dr. Dipu Moni, Minister of Education of Bangladesh; Jai Bir Rai, Minister of Education of Bhutan; Anil Sahasrabudhe, Chairman, All India Council for Technical Education of India; Dr. Ibrahim Hassan, Minister of Higher Education of the Maldives; Wajiha Akram, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training of Pakistan; and Susil Premajayantha, State Minister of Education Reforms, Promotion of Open Universities and Distance Learning of Sri Lanka.
Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, Secretary General of SAARC, also addressed the Virtual Meeting. In his brief statement, he described the pandemic as a once in a generation threat to the world that has affected the world population. He observed that the Ministerial Meeting was a welcome opportunity to reflect on the impact the pandemic has had on achieving SDG4 goal for ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030.