World Veterinary Day (WVD) is the annual celebration to highlight the contribution of veterinarians to society and is celebrated every year on last Saturday of April with a specific theme decided by World Veterinary Association that has its headquarters in Belgium. Society of Veterinary Scientists and Academicians (SVSA) that is a professional association of Veterinary Scientists of SKUAST-Kashmir happens to be one among the only four professional veterinary associations of country that are affiliated to the World body. This year World Veterinary Day was celebrated on 25-04-2020 with a theme “Environmental Protection for Improving Animal and Human Health”, which aptly connected to the current state of affairs in view of COVID-19 pandemic.
Traditionally at SKUAST-Kashmir this day is celebrated since 2003 with great zeal and enthusiasm and it in a way marks the Annual Day of Faculty of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry (Veterinary College) SKUAST-Kashmir. The month long programme usually includes plantation drives, campus cleanliness and beautification drives, sports bonanza and various contests for students like debates, quiz, painting, slogan, poster making, rangoli and essay writing. The programme concludes with gala celebrations on World Veterinary Day when all the Students, Faculty, Non-teaching staff, University Officers, Invited Guests from different walks of life and School children from some of the selected city schools converge at Shuhama Campus of SKUAST-Kashmir. The events start with a WVD rally that is flagged off by the Honourable Vice Chancellor, hoisting of World Veterinary Association Flag, Livestock Technology Exhibition, theme lectures, WVD address by Vice Chancellor and the invited guest of honour and felicitation of winners of different events organised during month long celebrations. Faculty member with flair of writing make it a point to get articles related to theme of the WVD and the Veterinary profession published in local dailies.
However, this year owing to lockdown and social distancing guidelines following COVID-19 pandemic, the physical assembly could not be possible but thanks to technology, we were able to have THE REAL Celebrations VIRTUALLY.
What started as an idea to conduct events like essay completion on the theme of WVD by inviting entries through e-mails, metamorphosed into a gala event, thanks to technology and tech savvy young Faculty and Students of Faculty of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry (FVSc &AH). The series of events were conducted for which event management committee chaired by Senior Professor and young tech savvy Faculty as member secretary were constituted. The Young Faculty and Students used their IT skills and innovative bent of mind to hilt and made it possible to add all required spice to the celebrations. The student contests that were held included:
- Essay writing
- Slogan writing
- Poster making
- Online quiz
- Online speech
A yet another contest was added in the last minute for contribution to VetScan; an annual wall magazine of FVSc & AH in form of paintings poems cartoons etc.
The jury had a tough time in deciding the awardees as every entry in every contest was better than the other. Member secretaries of different contest committees were able to make all the contests as lively as they could be. Students, especially the girls performed exceptionally well as they put their heart and mind into the contests. Students’ comments on social media after every contest was treat to read as it depicted the level of joy and satisfaction.
A series of webinars was arranged in which experts of national and international repute were invited to deliberate on the topics related to the theme of World Veterinary Day. The expert speakers included Professor Nazeer Ahmed, Honourable Vice Chancellor, SKUAST-K, Professor M. L. Madan, former Deputy Director General, Indian Council for Agricultural Research, Professor Shane Melony from Western Australian University, Professor David Brender CDC, USA, Professor Nazir Ahmed Ganai, Director Planning and Monitoring, SKUAST-K, Professor D. M. Makhdoomi, Controller Examination, SKUAST-K, Professor Shakeel Ahmed Ramshoo, Head, Department of Earth Sciences and Geo-informatics, Kashmir University, Dr Maroof Shah, Deputy Director Research Deptt. of Sheep Husbandry, Dr Anjum Andrabi, Deptt. of Animal Husbandry and Dr Aijaz A. Dar SMS(AS) KVK Kupwara. All lectures went on well except one where the 2G network played a spoil sport and had to be abandoned halfway through, much to the dismay of the speaker as well as the listeners.
Except the cup of tea that is served in usual seminars all ingredients were there. The sessions were aptly conducted by the respective technical committees comprising Chairman, Co-Chairman and Rapporteur. The question answer session at the end of the session was a treat to witness.
The fortnight long celebration was a learning experience and vividly demonstrated the power of technology. A speaker sitting in his office in USA interacted with Faculty and Students relaxing in their living rooms in Kashmir and the technical committee conducted the event also from their home. While the physical distance was real, all were in a same virtual surrounding. The whole event spread over a fortnight was completed without using a single piece of paper, All the notices, approvals, invitations and proceeding were compiled and issues in digital format. This was again in complete Coherence with the theme of WVD.
COVID-19 pandemic is certainly going to set a new normal. Who knows, that work from home becomes a new norm. Seminars will give way to Webinars and Class rooms get replaced by e-classrooms. Establishment of Virtual schools, colleges and universities with no real campuses cannot be ruled out.
It was the technology that exposed seamless learning experience where in the lockdown was respected; social distance was maintained but never at the cost of emotional distance. In fact the emotional distance got reduced and we all got networked into an e-maze where the celebration was REAL but in VIRTUAL mode.
Professor Azmat Alam Khan is Associate Director Research, SKUAST-Kashmir