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Ministers explain strategies to mitigate impact of Coronavirus on school and university students

The Kurdistan Parliament convened on 6 May, the first sitting since the Coronavirus lockdown. MPs held the first reading of a draft resolution on extending the period that MPs can submit legislative proposals by 30 days, given the delay caused by the Coronavirus. The KRG Education and Higher Education ministers presented their plans and answered questions about how they are addressing the fallout from the pandemic on the current academic year.

The Legislative Committee held the first reading of the draft resolution on exceptionally extending the deadline by which MPs can submit legislative proposals. Speaker Rewas Faiq asked the committee to prepare their report on the draft for the second reading.

The agenda of the meeting was the first reading of the proposal to submit draft laws by members of parliament in accordance with the internal regulations of the parliament and the second to discuss the plans of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and the Ministry of Education on how to deal with the consequences of Corona-virus for academic year 2019-2020.

The Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Dr. Aram Mohammad Qadir explained the ministry's strategy, saying that one academic year consists of a total of 30 weeks. Before the Coronavirus outbreak students had completed 22 weeks, and the ministry is looking at several options and plans for completing the remaining studies over 6 weeks in June or July. The KRG’s goal, he said, is to ensure that students can complete this year of study.

Minister Qadir said that some higher education research centres and laboratories have been helping the Health Ministry with Coronavirus screening. The ministry, through the University of Slemani, is conducting a project on the geographic distribution of the Coronavirus cases, so that Kurdistan Region can benefit from the data to prepare for pandemics in the future.

The Minister of Education Alan Hama Saeed Salih said that the Coronavirus pandemic had shut down 90 percent of the world's schools, and that Kurdistan;s Region’s schools have been closed since 25 February. The initial plan was to reopen schools on 10 March, but the situation had made that impossible.

Minister Hama Saeed Salih said that his ministry and the KRG is determined that the academic year be completed, and that students should not be deprived of their right to finish this academic year in 2020 and not later.

The Education Minister said that his ministry looked at several plans and alternatives to address the Coronavirus fallout. 1.7 million pupils and 240,000 teachers have been given log-in access to the ministry’s online learning platform, which was made possible with complimentary help and expertise from local companies, UNICEF and UNESCO.

More than 547,000 pupils have logged into the ministry’s online learning platform, and the participation of grades 1 to 4 is high despite fears that it would be low.

The online learning is provided in all the languages that are studied here (Kurdish, Arabic, English, Turkmen, Syriac).

With the support of the Prime Minister who ensured that funds would be available for local TV and with support from UNICEF for satellite broadcast fees, a school TV channel has been launched and broadcast.  

Pupils from grades 1 to 11 will go to their schools only to take exams, and for grade 12 the final decision will be made this week.

Minister Hama Saeed Salih said that they Education Ministry is also working on helping to create 3,000 vacancies for higher education graduates.