Covid-19 has reared its ugly head again, forcing the closure of the schools in Jammu and Kashmir.
Even when reopened last month after two years, attendance at schools remained voluntary as the government of India’s guidelines specify that parents can decide what their wards should do. Most parents gave consent and school resumption seemed uninterrupted until covid-19 announced unpleasant come back. The decision to shutting the schools temporarily for now seems in right direction in order to minimize negative impacts.
For two years now, the education sector in Jammu and Kashmir took a big beating due to 5 August 2019 security clampdown and Covid-19. It impacted the progress on many ways and the second wave threatens to be more damaging.
Recent estimates by UNICEF suggest that over 25 crore children in India have been negatively impacted by the closure of schools. The pandemic, as per the UNICEF—United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide—has further widened the existing inequity in the education sector across the globe. The school managements have done well to prevent loss of time and bridge learning gaps by resuming online classes. There is need to address issues in light of a recent study by UNESCO –“imperfect substitutes” for classroom learning. While it is true that online classes disallow interaction, at least it keeps the education step up intact. A good thing for the students of Jammu and Kashmir has been the resumption of 4Ginternet services which was restored in February this year after 550 days, the longest internet suspension anywhere across the globe. The petulant sense of grievance especially among the student in past is not found in contemporary times. Prior to the resumption of the high speed internet, students were left frustrated with every session given the fact that in low speed they were unable to see the content and video lectures uploaded by the schools as well connect with the teachers during online lectures.
Also, there are some poor children who cannot afford smart phone which keeps the behind their other counterparts. Some may not be in a position to afford the internet also. Perhaps, the policymakers should work out on these fronts. A free or subsidised access to the internet for poor students until the pandemic is contained should be worked out. It is important to understand that while online classes will not solve the problem at hand, they will ensure that learning continues.