THE Establishment Division conducts mandatory training for civil servants. These courses are mandatory for promotion to the higher grade: the mid-career management course for promotion to grade 19, senior management course for promotion to grade 20 and the national management course or its equivalent national security and war course for promotion to grade 21.
After the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic in Pakistan, the Establishment Division had to suspend these courses — 112th NMC, 27th SMC and 29th MCMC, which were being run in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta.
Since the whole world went into a lockdown, online work became the new normal, and people started working from home, the Establishment Division devised a plan to resume the online session. So it was decided to decrease the duration of the courses. The courses were started on Zoom from June 1 to end in the third week of July.
However, the Establishment Division has now decided to conduct the next courses i.e. 113th NMC, 28th SMC and 30th MCMC, on a normal basis. This means the participants will be residing in the hostels and they will be sitting together for four months.
For this reason, the Establishment Division has sought nominations from various departments and ministries. Officers posted abroad are also being called to attend these training sessions. This has been decided on the premise that there will be no Covid-19 by then and the participants will be able to sit in a classroom.
However, the situation on the ground is not very pleasant. The virus has been increasing and it seems that, God forbid, the situation will remain precarious in October this year when the three courses will start in different cities.
Those officers coming from abroad will also be in a dilemma. Since many countries, including Pakistan, have partially closed their air space and normal flights are not operating, many of them will not be able to proceed to Pakistan. Even if they do reach Pakistan to attend the course, they risk getting stuck in the country after the course if there is again a closure of air space.
The ones coming from abroad must return to their place of posting where their homes are. Those posted far away from Islamabad, provincial capitals and abroad should not be made to come to the training centres because the Covid-19 situation is still not satisfactory.
If many officers are stranded they will become a burden on the training centres in case there is a relapse of Covid-19 and we have a lockdown.
Therefore, the Establishment Division should take the challenge of distance learning and conduct the next courses online. It already has done so and should continue to capitalise on its experience. This will also enhance the capacity of many participants who have a bare minimum interaction with information technology.
Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2020