The key sector of education in Jammu and Kashmir, like many other parts of the world is taking a severe beating at the hands of COVID-19. Educational institutions are closed; their reopening and holding exams is likely to prove a challenge enormous. With no possibility in sight— due to the ongoing pandemic— for the formal/normal opening of schools , community classes up to the higher secondary level can be thought as a better option.
Community classes, where teachers can be empowered to enforce the COVID-19 correct behavior, certainly are the gateway for the students to flock to the river of education and thus groom themselves as useful citizens. Moreover, a community class will drain out the germs of mass promotion mindset and mass copying mode of thought.
There is no short cut or a quick fix solution to the teaching-learning process which is held face-to-face in classrooms. The online classes— timely started by the government— have definitely enabled students and teachers to keep educational activities going but with around 90% students not adopting to the online mode—some due to the absence of the digital facilities while a majority of them due to their dislike for studying online—this new mechanism of providing education has not gained enough ground.
Most affected are the school children from primary to the secondary level: from a child studying at a state-run school to a child at a private school, the Corona virus pandemic has dealt a big blow to their school days and education. And it is widely known that a sizeable section of children from these schools attend online classes because while a child from the disadvantage section lacks digital facilities, the child from the privileged sectionhaving digital deviceshas lost motivation and zeal for studying online; the online mode, moreover, renders the teaching-learning process very difficult for a child to adopt to it. It is only a few children who get some amount of learning online.
What is widely accepted is that through the community classes—volunteered by teachers last year across Jammu and Kashmir and later on seen by the administration as a better alternative—the children, mostly from the underprivileged section, have the semblance of learning. Both the teachers and the administration deserve appreciation for taking the initiative in this unprecedented crisis. The crisis is yet far from over, an indication that education could continue to receive a hard beating till we walk out of the relentless COVID-19 situation.
Schools, colleges and universities٫ meanwhile٫ are struggling to come to terms with this new normal. Schools—private or government-run—are finding it tough to deal with these novel circumstances. While the teachers of the government schools have faced numerous difficulties in adjusting to these trying times to hold online or community classes, the teachers at the private schools have to suffer the most. Private school teachers have been asked to rise to the occasion and learn to attend online classes; they have suffered either pay cuts or their wages have not been released at all. All this has happened at a time when the virus has rendered millions of people jobless.
Private schools are caught in an uncomfortable situation on fee collection: whether to take only the tuition fee or the entire fee from the students, the question is not easy to answer for these schools. On one hand, these schools are supposed to secure the jobs of teachers and on the other hand, they are supposed to ensure that the public does not end up at the receiving end when it comes to fee collection. Here٫ the government can play a key role: it can well look into the financial stress that the global pandemic has caused to private schools and can find ways to save them from the loss though not at the cost of thousands of students, teachers and parents.
Pertinently, most of the students and their parents are still far from realizing that in these dire circumstances, only online and community classes are the effective alternative for education to remain in the picture. Many teachers told this author that only 2-10 students attend online classes. That is not because only these few pupils have digital devices; that is because many others having these devices are not interested in learning. Most students, the teachers said, believe that the administration will either reduce syllabi or award mass promotion, leading to their complacency and carefree attitude.
The onus lies on parents to ensure that their children receive an education –whether online or in community classes as and when started. Teachers and the school administration are well prepared to provide education to children despite countless difficulties under the circumstances.
If all the stakeholders, including parents and community members, give their hundred percent, the education sector with respect to school education is likely to be on the driving seat; COVID disease not with standing.
COURTESY – RISING KASHMIR