On-line Or Of-line

Naira, a class 4th student from Srinagar, is eagerly waiting for her school to open. Her school, like all the other educational institutions continues to remain shut since late March owing to the unceremonious outbreak of Covid 19 Pandemic. No sooner Kashmir witnessed the first Covid 19 positive case, within days the cases began to augment and some among the affected even lost the battle to the dreaded disease. As the fear and panic about the disease started to spread among the masses, authorities had to order the closure of the schools.

As the number of cases started to surge, the possibility of schools reopening became bleak. It prompted school administrations- both public and private – to devise new ideas and formulate new strategies to catch up with the lost time as the studies were being badly affected due to the notorious virus. As it was, the management of the schools decided to opt for online classes through many interactive applications like Google classroom. Although the concept of online classes and programs dates back to the year 1996, the start of the same was regarded as a boon for the already education starved students. Assignments were sent through E-mails, WhatsApp and other modes of communication.

For a beleaguered student community of Kashmir that has seen hardly any class work since August last year, online classes appeared to be the only window of light to interact with the teachers. It also encompassed participative management and group learning and most of the students felt enthusiastic while coming online for such classes. With no option left, online classes became the order of the day for Naira and her ilk, as it ensured social distancing at all counts and made it possible to learn and share ideas through a collective mechanism even when you are confined to four walls of our rooms.

“We were happy to start our classes in schools after winter vacations, but Covid 19 pandemic came like a shock, affecting everything and everyone across the globe. We desperately needed some class work and it was nice to be part of such interesting online classes,” said Naira.

While Naira was well equipped with the technology of high speed internet services at home, her several counterparts who had to rely on their mobile phones for internet connectivity didn’t find online classes all that appealing.

“For students like me with hardly any internet connectivity, making most of the online classes is very tedious. We experienced a lot of difficulties to listen, understand & comprehend to what our teachers were trying to convey due to weak internet connectivity,” said a student from South Kashmir who barely has 2G internet connectivity. Even some of us, he said, unfortunately didn’t have smartphones to be part of online classes.

“Students who couldn’t afford smartphones have suffered big time. They have fallen behind in completing the syllabus and submitting their assignments timely. We hope Covid 19 Pandemic is over sooner than later and we resume our schooling so that disparity created due to technological barriers doesn’t affect our studies,” he said.

Teachers have a different perspective on the whole thing. While they acknowledge that the deadly disease handicapped the education system and online classes were the only available mode to reach and teach, they also felt the essence of teacher-student relationship got affected by the physical absence.

“You don’t get same satisfaction during online classes that you get while delivering lecture and involving in participative learning in the classes. When you are in front of your students you feel that spiritual connect, but during online classes, things are quite different,” said a teacher.

With schools reopening, looking a distant sight at the moment, one would hope administration comes up with something innovative so that no one bears the brunt of closure of education institutions further.

The author is pursuing Masters in Mass Communication and Journalism at Kashmir University