The COVID-19 induced lockdown has not just brought the country to a halt but also brought with it many challenges. We all witnessed how the migrant workers were stripped of their dignity in their mass movement from the cities to their natives.
Another such challenge that the young generation is facing is that of Online education. One that neither the teachers, not the students were prepared for!
From 24th March 2020, the school and college students are being `homeschooled’ from through Zoom and online classes that have replaced traditional classrooms due to COVID.
There are many who advocate that online classes will transform education as we know it, the overall picture is not all that rosy, especially in India, where problems like lack of technology, digital training, and network bandwidth are posing challenges for many families and teachers.
Education in Kashmir amid the social and digital lockdown
The union territory of Jammu and Kashmir has been under lockdown since August 5th, 2019 post the announcement of the abrogation of Article 370. Add to this the COVID induced lockdown which has compounded the miseries of the student-teacher community in J&K.
Along with the total shutdown in J&K, the internet was also shut down, which was later restored but only to 2G internet.
Repeated demands to restore 4G Internet in the backdrop of the COVID 19 crisis to make online education easier have gone to deaf ears. Students were the worst-hit owing to the ban on the high-speed internet.
As soon as the lockdown was imposed, the Education Department switched to online classes for students across Jammu and Kashmir. But for the teachers and students alike, 2G internet has rendered them helpless.
According to a report by the Newsclick, the teachers are frustrated by the slow internet speed as live videos are impossible and it takes days to upload video lessons. Students also find classes boring as it takes hours to play and prefer to skip classes.
Due to such lag in studies university students in J&K are demanding that the University do mass promotion of students to the next semester
On 4th June 2020, Students from Central University of Kashmir (CUK) pursuing various degrees including Law, Science, Urdu, and some professional degrees protested outside the Campus in Ganderbal.
The protesting students were seeking mass promotion to next semester as according to them they could not attend classes due to the lockdown since August last year.
They said that they are mentally disturbed due to the ignorant attitude of University authorities who are not paying heed to their demands.
Gazi Khan, a law student, told the Press Trust of Kashmir that we tried our best to bring our issue to the notice of DM Ganderbal but we didn’t get the desired response from them. “Our demand is genuine as most of the universities in India have granted mass promotions as per guidelines, however, CUK doesn’t follow the same”, he said.
“We the Kashmiri students are suffering from last 10 months as our two semesters are pending still due to clampdown after the abrogation of article 370 and now due to Covid-19 lockdown”, he further added. “The education field has suffered a lot and students were not able to study that is why we demand mass promotion”, he said.
Another student Nadia Raseed exclaimed on behalf of students federation of CUK that they have been constantly in lockdown besides that they had appealed higher authorities but at the end instead of granting mass promotion in our favor, authorities decided to hold exams and students haven’t studied enough so that they can appear in the examination. “The majority of students are in depression. We sincerely request authorities kindly grant mass promotion in favor of students”, she said.
“Students of Maulana Azad Memorial (MAM) college boycotted their classes and held a protest demonstration on the main road outside the college, blocking traffic for half an hour on Saturday morning”, official sources said. “They also raised anti-government slogans during the protest demonstration”, they said.
“Similar protest demonstrations were held in Science college at canal road and Women’s college at a parade in the city”, the sources said.
A group of about 20-25 activists of the J&K National Panthers Party (JKNPP) also held a dharna near exhibition ground on the issue.
Reports from Kathua district said that lawyers suspended their work in courts in the main town afternoon in support of the student’s demand.
Pitfalls of Online classes
Turning teaching materials into digital format at short notice has been a challenge as only a few teachers have strong digital skills or connectivity. In addition to that, both teachers and students are facing internet connectivity issues.
Switching to remote classes from traditional classes became a challenge for many students. Students are having problems communicating with the teachers properly as it is usually being done in traditional classes. The bond between students and teachers aren’t there. Students from different social background and not every student has access to a laptop or an internet connection. It is not possible for such students to attend online classes. Neither government nor schools and colleges have facilitated students with the necessary equipment or internet connection.