ISLAMABAD     -   Several educational institutions of the federal capital have directed students to submit undertaking of not holding the institution responsible if any student contracted novel coronavirus (COVID-19), The Nation learnt on Monday.

Heads of the universities said that the undertaking draft has been designed by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and all universities are following it.  

According to the documents available with The Nation, Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU), Bahria University and some private elite schools have asked students to submit affidavits.

The affidavit draft given by QAU to students adds 11 points informing the university about the student and its family health, implementation on COVID-19 SOPs, following health instructions in case of living in hostels. 

The final point says, “In case of getting infected by COVID-19, I will not hold Quaid-i-Azam University Administration responsible.”

A student, Muhammad Talha, informed The Nation that the affidavit is not being taken on simple paper but the university administration has asked to submit it on court stamp paper.

“It reflects that university administration is not responsible for students’ health despite calling them to attend classes,” said Talha.

He also said that Rs200 are being charged by stamp vendors nearby university campus and another business activity has started.

“Buses are overcrowded and the university itself needs to implement SOPs but students are being asked to submit affidavits,” said student Talha.  

Vice Chancellor (VC) QAU Prof. Dr. Mohammad Ali Shah said that the undertaking draft has been designed by HEC. He said that university cannot be made responsible if anyone catches the virus.

He added that people/students from different walks of lives gather at university and it’s impossible to stop the virus spread if unfortunately it happens.

Bahria University (BU) in its three-point undertaking draft said that “I solemnly declare that I am willing to attend face-to-face on campus classes (if offered) in the upcoming semester i.e. Fall 2020.”

In the last point, it said “God forbid, despite all precautions, if I catch any disease, I shall not hold Bahria University responsible for this, in any matter whatsoever.”  

A media official of the BU replied to The Nation that “University is following HEC given policy like other universities are also following.”

The HEC policy mentioning about taking the affidavit said that “All returning personnel will be asked to sign an affidavit that they have been given an option to not return, and have chosen to return, that they will adhere to all safety protocols and other instructions in this regard, and that they will not hold the university liable if they contract the virus in spite of the safety protocols. In case of students, their parents/guardians should also sign the form.

Similarly, elite private schools have also demanded undertaking from students, however, the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA) focal person Zafar Yusafzai said that the authority does not have any such policy and no such case has been reported at PEIRA.

“There is no reason for any such affidavit and also no institution could be held responsible for contracting the virus,” he said.

Additional Secretary Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training (FE&PT) responding to The Nation about any directions of demanding undertaking from students said “SOPs and guidelines have been issued by ministry of health and posted on all websites.”

HEC Chairman Prof. Dr. Tariq Banuri and the media department were contacted for response, however, the commission officials did not respond till filing of the story.

Educationist Tahir Malik commenting on demanding the affidavit by students said that unfortunately education institutions and regulators are responsible for taking hefty fees but not for taking responsibility for their own students.