I RECEIVED a text from my college recently that online classes will start from the first week of June. The text message further said that the classes were different from the expected mechanism of live lectures in some portals.
The proposed mechanism was that of sharing materials with the students through WhatsApp after creating individual groups for each subject assigned to the designated professor of the subject in question. These are fine intentions indeed, but the devil is in the detail.
Nowhere in the country has online education met with resounding success. In fact, the students who live in rural areas are suffering tremendously as the infrastructure is incapable of supporting online education.
In my particular case, most of the students of our college belong to small hamlets which are even more backward than the rural areas in which they exist. These students have no access to an Internet connection let alone a reliable one. If they somehow do manage to obtain a connection that works, then there is the issue of electricity to power the computer.
Then the question that is begging an answer is: how can the mere sharing of materials through WhatsApp help the students in the first place?
When we were attending classes in college before the lockdown, most of the students in my class — the same hamlets inhabitants — could barely understand what had been taught in the lecture. How do the educational authorities expect such students to prepare notes and educate themselves on their own?
Cosmetic measures will not help in addressing the root cause of the problem plaguing the education sector. Pakistan cannot leapfrog into an era of technological breakthrough in such a short span of time and in an emergency situation. The least that can be done is just hold classes through the national TV hookup to make a beginning and no more.
The failure of the decades to transform our education sector cannot be compensated for in a few months. We must have to wait for the pandemic to be over. There is no other solution.
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2020