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5 Challenges of Online Classes in Pakistan Amid Coronavirus

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Written by Saba Khaliq

You must have been following top news channels around the globe. Covid-19 has hit half of the globe in the most drastic and personal ways ever imaginable to mankind.

The pandemic has triggered decisions and verdicts in the fields of medicine and economy quite unprecedented in human history. Education didn’t keep out of the race. Global committees and examination boards have decided to keep educational institutes shut for months and have already postponed the upcoming examinations.

Amidst all this chaos, one wonders what Pakistan has in store for its students. How is the government going to cater to all the needs and concerns of its youth? The Education Minister announced the classes or exams will be resumed from 1st June. Amidst all this chaos and catastrophe, one wonders what to make of this intermediary period.

If you’ve been vigilant these days, you must be knowing some universities and schools have ordered the commencement of online classes for their students. What followed this step was a plethora of responses and critical comments from the students.

Sadly, teachers, administration and government officials have intentionally or unintentionally maintained a distance from all these debates. So, what exactly have the students been talking and fretting about? Students’ Concerns for Online Classes

1. Ambiguous Schedule

The decision of online classes has been thrust upon us quite like this uncalled-for viral disease. We look at hospitals and all we see is a group of doctors waiting for the medical equipment they have been promised.

The same dilemma of “waiting” has hit the students in the wake of coronavirus. We don’t know what lies ahead. Some institutes are calling this two-month period as summer break but the conductance of online classes is a clear contradiction to the very statement. Students have been asking questions like:

  • Will they be asked to take mid-terms as per schedule?
  • Are the universities considering postponing the end term exams?
  • How are they going to take the exams after all?
  • Attendance

This has forever been a mocking territory for every student in every age in every institute. Some teachers have been taking the online classes as a means of ensuring maximum attendance and participation.

This is quite irrational. With problems like bad internet connection and long hours of load shedding, maintain a good attendance rate from home is a mere wish.

2. Internet Connections and Mobile Phone Signals

Quick question! Have you ever seen a university functioning at a national level in the middle of nowhere? Have you seen an engineering university in your village or beside your fields? I bet you’ll say no! There’s a reason we build colleges and universities in metropolitans or cities teeming with basic facilities like electricity connection, constant transport options, telecommunications offices and internet providers.

There’s a valid reason we build hostels beside our educational institutes in cities. I hope you’d agree with the fact that one of the most well-renowned universities in Pakistan, University of the Punjab, alone caters around 7000 hostel residents.

With that figure in mind, estimate the total number of students hailing from rural areas and small cities with lesser number of privileges in every province. Now consider this!

This is the ordeal the statement for online classes has produced for our students hailing from areas other than modern urban cities:

  • Most of the students do not have modems at home and so, there’s no internet connection for them at home.
  • They thus are left with the option of traveling to considerable distances to get their mobiles charged with balance for mobile data.
  • Due to lockdown, the general stores are locked and the students end up traveling for nothing.
  • Even if they somehow get mobile packages, the mesh of telecommunication poles is not efficient enough in their areas. In easier words, mobile phone signals are so weak they cannot hear everything being said in group meetings.

3. Lack of Technical Training

Pakistani universities mostly offer computer courses but are they benefiting them with only typing, copy-pasting and saving files on MS Word?

This question bothered academia when both the students and the teachers failed at using technology effectively to carry out a glitch-free session online.

4. Lockdowns Prevent Purchasing Devices

Money isn’t a problem. But with a paralyzing social status quo, the students find it impossible to buy new devices. And traveling a great deal in times of a pandemic at door to attack you any time is quite an unwise move now. Do you feel frustrated after reading this article? There’s always a way out of chaos.

With this in mind, let’s look at all the possible ways this system can work or alleviate your stress regarding performing worse in your degrees. Providing internet devices to students

University administrations, in collaboration with the ministry of education, can ensure each student claiming unavailability of internet devices can be taken care of. For this purpose, the following scheme can prove fruitful:

  • Set aside all the university funds not being used due to lockdown especially the hostel funds.
  • Make a budget needed to provide modems or Evo/Zong devices to the students.
  • Get residential addresses of the students who cannot get hold of these devices.
  • Purchase the devices from the university not being used.
  • Dispatch the devices to students with the aid of volunteers.

5. Training Videos for Online Classes

We literally never needed technology as need it now. Every institute has an MIT center that can step up to help pacify this situation. All they have to do is upload videos to train the instructors of each subject so that they can conduct their classes without any technical difficulties. The instructors can then educate the students without any problem.

A complete overthrow of the plan You might have wanted to hear this right from the start. Without a doubt, this is the most desirable of all options for the students these days. This will mean the entire academic calendar will have to be pushed two months ahead. with the resuming of classes from June, the two months meanwhile will have to be taken as a summer break. And the real summer break will have to be utilized to go ahead with the classes then.

It’s not a bad idea but considering the heat strokes than haunt June, July, and August in a country like Pakistan, one can only wish there was a better way. But a better way doesn’t seem possible in this alarming situation. Let’s just hope we do our best to refrain from being infected with this endemic and the rest can be sorted out eventually. Till then, stay safe. Stay home.

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