Since March 2020, educational institutions including Schools, Colleges, and Universities were being shut down temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students were asked to study from home and teachers were having the responsibility to accommodate the students from their homes as well. Students and teachers both had a very hard time carrying on the mission of keeping the education continued. Now it’s September 2020, and in most of the countries, the outbreak of the virus has become controlled. It is not finished yet, but we can say that it has become limited to its 30-40% impact as compare to its initial stage. It’s the right time for students to go back to school. As in September many of the countries after having the expert opinion from their health authorities had planned to reopen the educational institutions.
In the recent six months, students really had a hard time coping up with their education. In many of the countries’ concept of online education was quite new, no one was prepared for it, nor students neither teachers.
Students were eagerly waiting for going back to school due to these Issues
The following are some of the issues which had been faced by the students during the pandemic.
Internet connectivity issues
Many of the countries with fewer IT resources suffered a lot in maintaining the pace of online education due to internet connectivity issues.
Most of the students from backward or remote areas usually proceed towards the cities to have a proper environment and better education. These students who actually belong to remote areas really faced a hard time due to internet connectivity and accessibility in their areas.
For example in Pakistan, students living in the mountainous and remote areas of the Baluchistan province, interior areas of Sindh province, some part of KPK Province, and some part of Gilgit Baltistan province and Azad Kashmir really had faced the issues like continuous disconnecting of internet due to the unavailability of Broadband Service. The network accessibility issues never allowed them to use 3G or 4G mobile internet services.
Unavailability of devices
The unavailability of devices like desktop computers, laptops, mobile phones, and tablets was remained to be a big problem during the days of the pandemic. If a family is having three school-going children, then they must have 3 separate devices to accommodate all of the three at the same time.
Parents were already in so much pressure during the pandemic to even earn their living, so how it could be possible for them to afford three separate devices for their three children.
Pakistan is one of those countries which are still far behind in the technology world. Over there, people still use old model mobile phones and don’t use to keep smartphones. It’s a great reason for students not getting to cope up properly with online education. Those parents who were having smartphones had to switch their phones with the older ones to bring access to online education to their children.
Immature teaching methodologies
Due to the immature teaching methodologies for online education, students were fallen back into serious mental stress. The readiness and visibility of the lectures been explained on the whiteboard were quite low. The students were completely unable to understand the concepts behind the mathematical and statistical problems. Teachers tried their level best to accommodate the students but still, they were quite new at this level of education. It is therefore achievement of learning outcomes that remained too low.
Students of senior-level like higher secondary and undergraduate students remained a bit successful in getting benefits from these online sessions in terms of teaching methodologies. These students were more mature and disciplined as compared to the students of smaller grades.
But as we are talking about school-going students of lower secondary, the scenario was not satisfying at all. Students were waiting for too long for going back to school desperately.
A hard journey for the students to go back to school
Governmental authorities of different countries were trying their level best to protect the students of all levels especially children of lower secondary and primary students. The virus was proved to be more attacking the people with weaker immune systems. Minors aging till 15 years were seriously exposed to the virus. It is therefore authorities never allowed the educational institutions to get opened even after receiving heavy pressure from different school unions and associations.
Educational setup is finally getting open in major parts of the world
Phase wise and gradually schools are getting opened. Particularly in Pakistan educational setup is going to proceed for getting back its previous pace from the 15th of September 2020. The government has decided to open the educational institutions’ phase-wise. Initially, they have decided to reopen the universities, colleges, and higher secondary sections of schools (i.e. 9th and 10th grades). In the second phase, they will be allowing the Secondary section to go back to school. In the 3rd and final phase, they are going to restart the on-campus schooling of pre-primary and primary sections.
It is mandatory to follow SOPs to head back to school
To stop the spread of the virus and protecting students from its chronic impact, the government has issued strict SOPs. Students failing to comply with those SOPs are liable for the suspension of admission. The same instructions are for those schools that may be found in violating the criteria or prescribed SOPs issued by the government. That non-conformity will lead them towards the cancellation of their license.
Parents who are not willing to send their children to schools will be having the facility of online classes. It means schools need to maintain some effective facility of recording or online delivery of on-going at-campus class as well.
The scenario of going back to school will be quite different from the pre-pandemic situation
- Students would not be allowed to stay in the school for too long.
- The shifts are going to be shorter
- Students would not be allowed to make gatherings
- They can’t hug each other or even shake hands.
- Parties, events, and celebrations are not going to be happening at the schools like they usually do previously.
- Students would not be able to see the smiling faces and expressions of their fellows, as till the whole time their faces are going to be covered with those masks.
- They will not be allowed to go out from the classroom to even drink water and have that short bunk, because they need to bring water bottles from home and not be allowed to even share water or lunch with their classmates.
Life is going to be very different when students will go back to school this time. But somehow someway we should thank God that after long and desperate wait schools are opening once again. Students are quite excited to see their schools, classrooms, and the desks where they used to sit, to meet their friends, and that one best friend eagerly. And most importantly, they are happy to know that the education process is getting resumed once again.
Schools are having a tough job to do
It is going to be a very tough job for schools to implement the SOPs and also make students comply with those strictly. Because if they are going to deploy teachers to achieve this additional task, then it is going to be tough for the teachers to clear the backlog of the courses while parallelly maintaining the discipline in compliance with the SOPs. An additional discipline in charge may be appointed to achieve this task. The hiring of Discipline Incharge will be going to be an addition to the overall expenditure of the budget. But schools are not having any other option. The protection of students should be maintained at higher values; otherwise, these minors could be the immediate victims of the next outbreak.
Story by: Talha Ali Hashmi (Creative Head, MTD), he is a researcher possessing a degree in Environmental Studies and a certified Environmentalist from the Technical University of Denmark. He is writing on Current Affairs, Environmental Management, Education and Technology since the last 8 years