EDUCATION IN PANDEMIC
In strife-ridden zones, the education sector is always the casualty, as the conflict itself is biggest disruptor. Kashmir certainly is no exception; here also the education has suffered the worst. After the shutdown of eight months since August 05, 2019, when J&K was divested of its statehood and split into two Union territories, students were now yearning for the smooth academic year. The year 2020 started well. The schools witnessed remarkable attendance. However, then came the Covid-19 pandemic, and everything is back to square one. Already ramshackle education system of the valley has been hit hard by the pandemic and all schools, colleges and universities are closed for more than a month now.
Pandemic has brought up the new and modern concept of ‘work from home’. Organizations, institutions, and companies’ world-over have opted for the idea, with people doing their jobs from home. Department of Education in Kashmir has also adopted this medium and teachers have been asked to teach the students online.
In the entire country, teachers are using modern routes to connect with their students. And Kashmir too is not lagging. In Kashmir also, teachers have joined the online platforms to render their services in the existing crises. However, in our valley, this mechanism is fraught with many problems, which require immediate solutions.
The first and foremost problem is that of Internet connectivity. While the entire world has facilities of high-speed Internet, Kashmir has been deprived of it. The government is extending the ban on 4G Internet repeatedly without any justifiable reasons. A clear discrimination indeed with the people here – as if telling them that your problems do not count and we are not at all bothered by your hardships! Here people have to manage affairs through 2G but conducting online classes on such slow speed is no less than a challenge. Teachers and students face a great deal of difficulty in connecting. Sometimes there are connection problems and other times there are issues with voice.
Many teachers have preferred to create subject-based videos and then make them available for the use of students. Uploading a video on the Internet, sharing it through social media, and its subsequent downloading by students consumes a lot of time for both teachers and students because of the low Internet speed.
The hours spent in school makes for better learning. The concentration and involvement in the classroom are different. Still, teachers make an effort at explaining topics and engross students in best possible way, and the majority of students too are responding overwhelmingly in spite of the network issues. But, frequent Internet blockades add to their worries. Patchy Internet connectivity divests the students of even this ‘makeshift’ online learning. The government needs to make sure that the students do not suffer, and must restore 4G services for their sake. The government should also make certain that the Internet is not blocked so that student’s studies are not affected.
The majority of the population here belongs to the bourgeois and lower middle class and it must not seem unbelievable that many of the parents do not possess smartphones. They do not have access to the Internet. Subsequently, their wards are not benefited through the newly adopted online system of teaching. In such cases, teachers have a little role. The only thing teacher could do is to keep track of students through his parents who have an important part to play. If their wards are unable to attend online classes, still they need to ensure that the students do not veer away from books. They need to take care by supervising all their activities including education.
Once an unlettered woman was helping her child in memorizing his lessons. I asked the woman if she is able to comprehend English. She responded in negative but went on to add that her children didn’t know that she can’t read and write. “I am successful in making him learn and memorize lessons and this approach as panned out in ensuring his regular learning,” she said. Parents who have not been to school or who are less-educated can also contribute to the education of their wards; after all, they have a key role in encouraging and motivating their children.
However, students of higher classes must not require a ‘carrot and stick’ approach or counselling to engage them in studies. They know very well that only the ones who could compete and withstand the challenges of life have the right to exist. They need not wait for parental or tutor’s advice to work but should take advantage of lockdown and make better use of time. It is a good opportunity for them to increase their capabilities by self-study coupled with the guidance of teachers through online classes.
At this stage government authorities, teachers, students, and parents need to act in unison at least to mitigate the expected educational losses due to the pandemic.
(Zeeshan Rasool Khan writes on current socio-political issues and can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)