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Academic cost of the pandemic

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Along with all other costs of the COVID-19, academic cost is too grave. In Pakistan, millions of children are out of schools, millions of college and university students are also bearing the blow of the pandemic and their academic sessions have been severely harmed in last three months. Though the educational activities, around the country, are scheduled to be resumed by July 15, ye it does not seem happening in anyway owing to rising number of the positive cases. It means, the academic activities would continue to suffer till the situation gets normal.
There are multiple issues related to academia faced by the student, however, few important sides of the issue would be discussed briefly.
Absence of alternatives to cater the academic needs: Pakistan being an ill advanced country in terms of technology and access to internet, in the current situation, hundreds of thousands of students can never think of getting online education. Only a few can have internet and computer availability and rest of all remain at a great disadvantage. The obvious reason for this is poverty and government’s ill will to provide Internet access mainly to those residing in backward areas. But the reality is that provision of internet and technological seem a far cry as far as government’s priorities are concerned.
Another side of absence of alternatives is that even those private or semi-private schools, colleges and universities which charge huge chunk of fees to students have also largely failed to arrange alternative online classes for students. This means such institutions only aim at doing business not providing promised quality education.
Moreover, those institutions that have arranged some sort of online classes have failed engage students in learning. This is owing to absence of technological skills to teachers hence this creates hindrances in handling online classes. Resultantly, students fail to learn through online classes.
Furthermore, parents have been complaining that since schools are close for last three months and will continue to remain close for indefinite period of time, they are compelled to pay monthly fees. One of a parent complained that he had six school going children but despite closure of schools, he had to pay 10300 per month fee for each child. He said as the businesses were shut for two months but he had to pay fees at any cost. He said that he was thinking of shifting his students to a government school. But, he further said, government schools’ performance is always questionable because they fail to provide if not quality but reasonable education to children which is again worrisome.
Throughout the country, millions of students are enrolled in government run schools, colleges and universities and they are the worst hit section of students during the pandemic. One cannot think of online classes for school children for two reasons. Firstly, such students mostly belong to poor or lower middle class who cannot afford the luxury of technology. Secondly, government educational system is not equipped with technology and responsible mechanism to carry on educational services in extraordinary times. To say least, government run school and college students are the greatest victims of educational crisis in these times.
Another problem that students haven been facing is of their promotion to next class or next semester and criteria for awarding them final degree or certificate. The federal government had announced that all students till class-XII would be promoted while keeping in view their previous academic record or performance. However, the issues remain unsettled for university students. The promotion to next classes or award of certificates without any working assessment criteria is similar to compromising the learning of the students and affecting their career goals in future. Some students would manage to overcome the vacuum but majority would live by carrying the burden of academic backwardness. Though these are hard times and such decision has been made to save the precious time of students on one hand but some goals have also been compromised on the other which would harm the students manifold.
Students of today are leaders of tomorrow, any deficiency in their nourishment including education would have similar impacts on the future of a nation. Therefore, along with saving lives of the generation from the being infected by the pandemic, the government need to take care of the education of the millions of students. Thence, once, the pandemic is over or the academic activities are resumed, the government should impose educational emergency throughout the country. Though the announcements about introducing uniform education system are laudable but the government has to show much maturity and responsibility by preplanning mechanisms in this discourse.