Extended school closure might not help!
By: Ishfaq Chopan
As government of J&K extended the closure of all schools, colleges, universities and technical/skill development institutions in UT of J&K till 31st of July 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic, there are serious concerns for the future of education. Moreover, government also extended closure of all coaching centers for the same period and this comes when all of us know that there has been a continuous decline in positive COVID-19 cases not just in J&K but throughout India. One wonders as when government has eased restrictions on trade, travel and tourism why there is no resuming of educational institutions in J&K? When transport is fully operational and most tourist destination is blooming with visitors, there is still no unlocking of educational institutions on cards. When people have resumed normal activities of life extended closure of educational institutions seems contradictory to the decisions of the government.
The prolonged closure of schools and colleges has now become a major concern. When children go to the schools they are not just receiving education from their teachers but are physically built, emotionally enriched, socially skilled, mentally guided and morally disciplined as well. The situation is different now as students haven’t been in their schools from a few years. In Kashmir, students were already confined to homes for a larger portion of 2019 when article 370 was abrogated. Far from schools children have missed the atmosphere of a physical classroom and also the active guidance and the mentorship of teachers.
Though there have been some experiments of open air schools and community schooling to impart education to students, these can never be an absolute substitute for physical schooling. Of course children have been introduced to a culture of online education here too, though they couldn’t access it for a larger period here even after deadly COVID-19 as there were curbs on 4G internet. Infact online learning platforms provide a virtual classroom connecting students to their teacher while at home by providing technological opportunities and modern features for learning. But online education has its own limitations and is often not accessible to all and technically not feasible in all circumstances. According to a UNICEF ‘Remote Learning Reachability Report’, only 24% of Indian households have access to Internet and there isn’t any proper mechanism and defined schedule of teaching and learning online in our case so far.
So students are not just missing larger portions of syllabus assigned to them but are severely struggling in understanding the content and concepts they have to deal with as there is no available guide to them in a physical atmosphere. Even there have been challenges of food for many a poor families as they couldn’t get access to free mid day meals at school amid covid closure.
Though there are still some of the concerns about various strains of viruses. But government has to ensure schooling with full preventive measures before it is too late for students to return. To avoid further damage government has to initiate school unlocking before the already crippled education system in J&K is fully paralyzed.