By Shahid Bhat
To maintain the flow of education amid the Covid-19 lockdown, the Government has instructed all schools to conduct online classes. During these sessions, the teachers are connecting with the students remotely and giving lectures and providing study material by using technological aids like Microsoft Teams, Zoom app, YouTube tutorials and WhatsApp broadcasts.
The online classes had started in the first week of April 2020. These virtual classes are being held structurally by following a proper time table which is presided by the school administration.
I want to share the experience of online classes as the concept is new for students living in JK In particular to those areas that still don’t have internet access.
Poor Connectivity & Resource Crunch
First and foremost difficulty in online classes is that not every student has got a mobile phone or a tab or in other words they simply cannot afford such education.
Second the Internet connectivity here is not such that the desired objectives are achieved in time. It costs a day on 2G where it would cost only an hour on 4G.
The internet here in J&K is the most vulnerable. As per the recent study, the majority of internet shutdowns comes from the erstwhile state of J&K. This is the biggest problem as of now students have to face, As the internet remains suspended for security issues or any other reasons for days to weeks to months to sometimes even for a year. Given the situation it is hard to cope up with the same. For some students, the convenience of online courses can encourage poor study habits. Without a set class schedule, as students would have in a traditional course, the temptation to procrastinate may be stronger. With no in-person interactions with the instructor or with fellow students, it can be easy to forget assignments and deadlines unless the student keeps organized. Online courses often require just as much work as traditional college classes, so putting off coursework can leave students struggling when important deadlines approach. This really results in mental harassment to a student.
The education sector has hit really bad in recent times. The most vulnerable situations affected the education sector in many drastic ways. It is pertinent to mention that in Kashmir Valley there has been only 21 Working days in schools since August 5 till date. This is the matter of grave concern. The education sector and Internet have been hit badly from past few years. Be it floods in 2014, or the post Burhan wani phase in 2016 then Abrogation of Article 370 on Aug2019 and now the Novel Covid19.
Online classes are a nightmare for primary students as well. It is the worst experience for them. The lack of in person face-to-face interaction has affected the proper understanding of facts for them. They sometimes don’t even know what they are writing, yet they are compelled to do so in order to complete the syllabus and the burden their teachers face.
Challenge for teachers
Online classes are not less than a challenge for the teachers itself. As it is not an easy job to compile the material and prepare hours long video lectures and then post them without proper internet speed. Often they have to go through disruptions due to some technical issues like application malfunction, slow internet or no internet at all. The applications or software that are being used by teachers to deliver online classes are not fully safe. Even the administration itself has to provide guidelines for safe usage of some apps that caused privacy issues during their usage. This adds to the problems that every teacher experienced and they ultimately have to look for some other alternatives.
Are Students Learning?
Corona virus has made the world come to a standstill. Schools all over India are trying to maintain a balance and save the future of students by adopting technology to deliver lectures and conduct classes online. But how far have these online classes proved fruitful to the current generation of students.
Are kids actually learning through this mode?
For children to really get benefited by these classes’ concentration and parental support is essential. Online teaching is an arduous task. We need to appreciate a teacher’s role as well. They are trying their best to make children understand but then there are pros and cons of everything. To shift learning from offline to online mode wasn’t an overnight task. Our valley has been under 2 consecutive lockdowns, the education sector has suffered the most. But luckily this time internet services are working. Our children have been out of schools for about 400 days so they are already lagging behind. For them to cope up with other states our valley schools also introduced online classes. We need to consider both pro’s and con’s of online education. Firstly, something is better than nothing. A parent can’t afford to risk his child’s life by allowing him to join offline classes. So in that case it’s better a child learns something at home. It’s easily accessible. They remain in touch with their syllabus and don’t lose their ‘student’ identity.They still have a routine they need to follow and be available for their online classes and response to the asked queries. But there are still many parents who don’t have smart phones for their children and can’t afford it either. Their children are not able to grab this opportunity of learning online in this pandemic. They lag behind further, these are mostly children from backgrounds who anyway need a head-start because of lack of resources.
To conclude it is necessary to understand the problem of those deserving students who can do well if given suitable opportunities. What can we do for those students who cannot afford a smartphone but are willing to stay connected and concentrated. School authorities at their level may act decent to help these left out students. Providing them with Hard copies of material and arranging for them open air classes can prove effective. On Humanitarian ground NGO’s or any other organisation or any individual in person may provide these students with smartphones. To help them in these hard times. In these hard times if we cannot help each other, then when our conscience will wake us up? With the Unlock 4.0 being in effect now only Schools Colleges & Universities are closed. Students are willing to attend the offline mode of classes, they are ready to follow SOPs but somehow want to wear that uniform again which is left untouched for a very long period. Recently, on social media a video of a kid went viral in which he was seen saying that he will do anything, follow SoP , would wear a mask & gloves, keep social distancing, but want to join the school again. Now the Govt. should also mull to open the schools & other Educational Intuitions of the valley because the Schools are calling & Students must go!
Shahid Bhat can be reached at email@example.com