By: Beberg Baloch
The world is seeing an unprecedented crisis. The coronavirus has stopped regular life in its tracks and forced everyone to change their way of life. To adjust to the evolving circumstances, universities across the globe turned to online learning. Pakistani universities followed suit.
However, the infrastructure does not exist in Pakistan to support this ambitious venture and as a result students without adequate resources are being marginalized. Students have attended one to two weeks of online lectures and thus understand better now why they do not deserve such a low level of education.
Some reasons are mentioned below:
1) The teachers are pretending to imitate classroom experience in 40 minutes time slots on zoom. That is not possible because most times the bandwidth is so poor students cannot even see them.
2) The students are not stimulated to learn. Technical subjects and lab time cannot be taught on zoom or other video streaming softwares.
3) There is a difference between online learning via streaming and actual self-paced online learning. Platforms like Coursera are an example of self paced learning. World’s top universities are trying the latter and Pakistani universities are enforcing the former since teachers were not given any time to prepare for either.
4) Internet access required for a good quality video/audio stream is not available in most parts of Pakistan. Try running zoom successfully and uninterrupted from a rural area in Punjab. It won’t work. You might join the conversation but won’t understand the garbled noise. That is unfair to us. Now imagine the same in AJK or Balochistan, they cannot even attend. The virus lockdown is further worsening conditions for students to access stable, high quality internet.
5) Many students are stranded due to the lockdown. They are unable to go home and unable to stay in another city or university hostels after lockdown. They cannot be expected to attend mandatory online classes in these circumstances.
6) All students should have equal opportunities to get their money’s worth of education. Online classes cannot deliver that in the context of Pakistan.
To deal with these grievances, the campaign of #we_want_semester_break was formulated through collective student efforts. The campaign has over 15000 signatures for this appeal on change.org http://chng.it/S4cMv9JF. It has also trended with over 20000 tweets to support it.
Students beseech higher educational institutes to consider stopping these classes, reopen discussions on how best to approach education in these unprecedented circumstances and include student’s voices in that conversation. Their recommendation is a semester break and continuation of classes after this pandemic is under control. This campaign comes from a place of genuine concern. If students are the future, the current method is the not right way to prepare for success.