Together we can convert the COVID crisis into an opportunity: Minister for Higher Education, Govt of Odisha

Bhubaneswar: Dr Arun Kumar Sahoo, Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Empowerment, Fisheries and Animal Resources Department, Higher Education, Govt of Odisha today said that the COVID pandemic is an unprecedented situation, and this is the best time to convert the crisis into opportunity. “We should not take it as a crisis. This is the time to face the crisis, realise and convert the crisis into opportunity. We have to do this as there is no other alternative,” he added.

Addressing the virtual roundtable on COVID-19 ‘Impact on Education/Higher Education and Way Forward,’ organized by FICCI Odisha State Council as Chief Guest, Dr Sahoo said that we have to learn to live with COVID situations and for last 1.5 years, both economy and the social life have been impacted. “The second wave has devastated the economic, social condition of individuals and states but we must convert the crisis into an opportunity,” he added.

Speaking on the impact of the pandemic on education system, Dr Sahoo said that we must analyse the student mindset and it not the responsibility of the student only but parents, stakeholders, institutions and government as well. “The physical teaching and learning modes are better than the virtual mode. But today, we have to focus on digital education. Last year, before the pandemic we appointed over 2,400 lecturers in different colleges along with universities,” he added.

He further added that the government is also planning to adopt the mentoring system in classes.

Dr Achyuta Samanta, Member of Parliament and Founder KIIT University and KISS said that the absence of institution might affect the students emotionally as there is no social interaction. But digital education has brought a revolution in this sector. He said that this pandemic has hit hard the education sector in Odisha. The students, parents and teachers are equally affected. But this is the time to adopt to the new technology and live with the new normal to battle the challenge posed by this pandemic, he noted.

Mr Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, MLA and Founder, KMBB Group of Educational Institutions said that our education system has been suffering from poor infrastructure and human resource. COVID-19 has highlighted the areas of improvement. the current education system is lacking proper infrastructure and qualified human resource. It also lacks technical backbone, he said.

Mr Hemant Sharma, Principal Secretary, Industries Department, Skill Development and Technical Education Department, Govt of Odisha said that education is not only about gaining knowledge but also about personality development. “Interaction amongst students in university campus is crucial, which is lost due to the pandemic. Digital innovative solutions are used by education institutions today,” he added.

Prof Asoka Kumar Das, Vice Chairperson, Odisha State Higher Education Council, Govt of Odisha said that COVID-19 has broken the backbone of the education system in Odisha. The government should focus on practical education format and better content development for students, he added.

Ms Monica Nayyar Patnaik, Chairperson, FICCI Odisha State Council and MD, Sambad Group said that our aim is to get the leaders of the education sector together so that we can address the issues of this sector and present it to the government. FICCI Odisha State Council has organized series of roundtable on various sectors.

Mr Sanjib Kumar Rout, Founder President, CV Raman Global University said that the government and private sector must collaborate and support students who have lost their family members, so that they can continue their higher education. Mr Rout also suggested that education sector must also be supported with schemes like soft loans, or financial assistance just like MSMEs and other sectors are availing during such tough time.

Prof Ashok Kumar Mahapatra, Vice Chancellor, SOA University told that the quality of education has gone down, and optimal facilities should be created as nothing is sufficient during a pandemic.

Prof Hrusikesha Mohanty, Vice Chancellor, KIIT University suggested that there must be provision the examinations can be conducted by the local authorities may it be the schools & colleges etc. Creation of virtual repositories & e-libraries will be very helpful in such times, he mentioned. He suggested that one institute of excellence for every discipline could be created to improve the quality of education.

Prof Sabita Acharya, Vice Chancellor, Utkal University was of the view that it takes more time teaching online as delivery is getting affected. She suggested that to encourage digital education, teachers need to take extra effort & make the content more interesting & engaging.

Prof Sanjay Kumar Nayak, Vice Chancellor, Ravenshaw University informed that a total of 320 mn students are affected by the pandemic. Developing digital infrastructure is the need of the hour, he advised. He also informed that UGC has recommended a blended learning mechanism which will comprise 40 percent online education & 60 percent offline.

Dr Anita Patra, Registrar, Centurion University, CUTM highlighted the importance of conducting social psycho counselling of all staffs, teachers, students once the schools/colleges reopen as everyone has gone through the tough time.