THE educational institutions are closed because of Covid-19. The process of learning has to continue but the tools to ensure this leave a lot to be desired. An emergency model of instruction must promise continuity of learning to students across class and income divide. It is all very well to see the increasing number of internet users as a sign of progress, even if this has been achieved because of lockdowns. But not everyone can access the cyberworld. More innovative methods are required. For instance, there are wide open spaces in rural areas and even towns that can be used for teaching students — if the elements permit. Examples from elsewhere also provide useful insight. Take teachers in India. Many of them record their lectures and then have mobile teams relay these in villages via speakers to learners who maintain a safe distance from each other. In Africa, the radio service has been put to good use; but in Pakistan, it is surprising that the ‘medium’ of paper hasn’t been emphasised enough by those trying to educate youngsters in these times. Indeed, written or printed notes and lectures sent to students regularly by schools can go a long way in addressing their lack of accessibility to fancier gadgets. Paper can reach where the internet cannot. Similarly, radio and television still have a role to play.

It is often presumed that those without facilities such as the internet and the tools required to access it are doomed. In this sense, junior-level students are at a greater disadvantage as compared to those in the senior classes who are much closer to completing their studies. This is a reflection of our lopsided priorities — and shows how miserably the state has failed to lay a solid foundation for schooling at the primary and pre-primary level. Even as we try to overcome this most trying phase, there is an opportunity to identify our lapses and strategise collectively for a better, more equal education in the months ahead.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2020

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