COVID-19 impact on education in Pakistan

COVID-19 has disrupted education worldwide in an unprecedented way. Millions of students have not been able to continue learning in schools, universities,vocational training institutions, and adult learning programs. Most governments around the world temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt tocontain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure of educational institutions started back in February when China completely closed schools duet pandemic. Until March more than 190 countries either partially or fully closed their educational institutions. These nationwide closures impacted hundreds of millions of students.
Students, teachers and parents were not prepared for this situation and faced a wide range of challenges particularly dealing with the online mode of teaching ore-learning. Both school-going children and higher-level students such as college or university students experienced remote learning which affected their emotionalside of learning. This phenomenon of remote learning is changing relationships between students, teachers and parents as well as highlights the importance of ensuring students’ and teachers’ well-being in times of crisis.COVID-19 appeared as an add-on challenge for the education system in Pakistan when the government decided to close all educational institutions back in March.
A prominent challenge that affected a large number of students was inadequate facilities and infrastructure of the internet to support online learning. Particularly, university students faced problems with online lectures due to poor internet connection and living in remote areas. Students were staying at their home and teachers were asked to deliver lectures online using different soft ware such as zoom, Microsoft teams etc. It was not only a challenge for students but also for teachers as they were also in their home towns and they were also facing internet issues.
In the wake of online classes challenge, students who had internet access started rising voice on Twitter and they managed to create trending topics such as Suspend Online Classes, Boycott Online Classes etc. This lash back clearly shows the lack of infrastructure to deliver online lectures. We adopted an online class system following the trends from China and other western countries, but we ignored the realities of poor infrastructure and management.
At the school level, the concept of online education was conceived merely as teaching using WhatsApp groups and sending recorded voice notes. It was a challenge for teachers to record lectures and teach students using WhatsApp and a major responsibility was sifted on to parents’ shoulders. WhatsApp mode of learning became a nightmare for parents and created a huge mess for them. School management so far was blackmailing the government, but they started building pressure on parents and students. Merely to collect monthly fee, owners of private institutions forced parents and teachers to adopt WhatsApp based learning.
Primary level students who never used WhatsApp and particularly mobile phones for educational purposes were forced to attend lectures on WhatsApp. Moreover, due to the pandemic students were promoted to the next level without exams based on their previous results. This scenario also created amess for many students and the results surprised many students.
In Pakistan, lack of digital media literacy appears as a huge gap and a major challenge particularly for parents who want their children to use digital devices for education, but they know nothing about the use, impact and challenges of digital device. In a society where girls are discouraged to keep or use smart phones or computers with or without the internet, they need to prepare and understand the importance of the use of digital devices for educational purposes.

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