By Mushtaq Bhat
The second wave of Covid19 has continued to present unprecedented effects across the country. In the wake of surge in cases, the administration of the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir have taken several measures including closure of Schools, certain restrictions in containment zones have been enacted to contain its spread. The second wave is far steeper in nature than the first wave, which in turn lead to the fear of affects in various sectors out of which Education being one and the hard hit sector due to ongoing closure of schools. Nevertheless education is one of the blessings and necessities of life but one couldn’t deny the fact that nothing is more precious than the life and wellbeing of a child. Now, the problem is, we don’t know when the second wave will subside, nothing is in our hands other than patience and hope.
Meanwhile school going children are, naturally the worst affected and the system of education is seeing a cascading effect and a big blow from the relentless pandemic. So far as historical perspective is concerned the times which a student remains out of school have its adverse consequences on his/her learning process. To compensate the academic loss and to fill up the learning gaps the crises has nudged the Department to switch online mode of education, as there is no end in sight. But to keep students motivated in the adapted route of online practices has raised so many questions. Because the situation is impacting rural students more than those who live in towns and cities. Teachers in remote and rural areas are scrambling to find ways to continue teaching learning process but they are facing various challenges due to which many students get left out in the process. If we talk of students upto secondary level they can’t afford smart phone or computer which is a basic requirement for online classes. They lack this facility due to financial or other reasons and depend on their family members’ who remain mostly out of their homes to earn their livelihood. The second challenge which they are facing is the accessibility of internet which is not universal throughout the entire region of union territory. They have to also deal with intermittent power supply which is often a hindrance. If somehow students manage to get smartphones from their family members, now purchasing data plans for learning could also incur a lot of expenses for families who face financial constraints. Above all online teaching learning needs an environment and both teacher and taught must possess a minimum level of computer knowledge and the techniques for its effectiveness which is not seen often in remote areas. In such a case an institution that is not aware of importance of proper facilitation and challenges being faced by students and teachers would never understand the impact and affect that these elements can have on the success of these online classes. Alarming is the fact that the Government is oblivious to the stark realities of social inequalities which are proving to be the greatest barrier to access online education.
Therefore, the administration must see beyond the bottom line and instead of counting the figures and showing existence, they must ponder and should committed to seeing online classes as a means of providing quality and an alternate education to children who would otherwise not be able to access it. Any change that is so disruptive is also likely to bring with it some new opportunities that will transform the education system across the country but the need is its proper planning, management, implementation and monitoring. In such a situation the department needs to act swiftly by replacing various grants like School bags and uniforms with a smart phone in order to distribute it among the students of remote areas. If not possible community mobile banks may be created where people can donate old but functional mobile phones or help from various organizations and companies may be taken in order to address the issue of equity. Moreover Department should encourage teacher trainings in how to design and teach online classes. Further, Department should make the attendance mandatory both for teacher and taught.
Last but not least, the question of who has control over these gadgets, classes is important and a proper monitoring mechanism should be devised in order to check and balance all the related activities.
The writer could be reached at [email protected]