UNESCO estimates that over 1.5 billion students in 165 countries are out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has forced the global academic community to explore news ways of teaching and learning, including distance and online education. This has proved challenging for both students and educators, who have to deal with the emotional, physical and economic difficulties posed by the illness while doing their part to help curb the spread of the virus.  The future is uncertain for everyone, particularly for millions of students scheduled to graduate this year who will face a world crippled economically by the pandemic. 

In this series, UNAI talks to students, educators and researchers in different parts of the world to find out how COVID-19 has affected them and how they are coping with the changes. The series also aims to highlight the lessons learned and potential positive outcomes of the global lockdown for higher education.

Dr. Bushra Naeem is an Associate Professor in the Department of Information Technology at the Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS) in Quetta, Pakistan.

In the interview with UNAI, Dr. Naeem talks about how the unexpected closure of the campus presented challenges for both faculty and students as they had to quickly switch to distance learning. Dr. Naeem and her colleagues use online tools and emails to communicate with students and address their concerns promptly. However, not all regions of Pakistan are equipped with high-speed internet, which creates difficulties for students living in remote areas to study and take exams online.

According to Dr. Naeem, the pandemic has been a psychological shock for everyone, and educators are not only responsible for teaching courses and ensuring learning outcomes, but also for counseling students who are dealing with the loss of normalcy and their campus community.  Dr. Naeem believes that post-pandemic, educational systems will become stronger and more flexible with virtual education providing more options for lower cost and more inclusive education.  Dr. Naeem also believes that people will have a greater appreciation for things they previously took for granted before the pandemic and maintain a better work-life balance. Listen to the full interview with Dr. Naeem here.

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