The illusive alternative education in pandemic

Published On: May 18, 2020 05:00 PM NPT By: Prisha Kafle

Prisha Kafle

Prisha Kafle

She is a student at Kathmandu Model College studying in grade 11.

The world right now is facing a pandemic due to the novel coronavirus. It has become a threat to mankind. The global lockdowns have consequently affected all sectors of human life, among which, the education sector has been majorly affected.

The shutdown of educational institutions across the globe has been a step taken against Covid-19. Due to this closure, millions of students have been directly affected.

According to UNESCO, almost 1.7 billion learners will be affected globally. Exams, assessments and graduation events have been canceled or rescheduled, and formal education has almost been discontinued.

Toll on mental health

This has an effect not only on learning, but also on the mental wellbeing of students. Schools are not only formal classrooms, they are also sites of social contact. It is not only essential for their academic learning, but also to help them grow as social human beings.

Due to this closure, students cannot live their social lives. Other places such as libraries and sports clubs are also shut. Being restrained within their houses is unmanageable for most youngsters. As pandemic will not allow our usual social interaction, we need to devise alternative methods of doing so. The same applies for formal education also.

This closure of institutions has as effect on parents as well, because most of the parents are required to stay home to look after their children. They too will have an effect on their minds. Besides, many of the health workers are women. They are unable to go out to help the society in this time of crisis when their help is most valued.

Nepal's options

Many institutions have chosen online classes and home schooling to be the most effective solutions. But, in the context of Nepal, both of these options will not work as the country is so ill-equipped in terms of educational infrastructure and technology.

Developed countries have been practicing home schooling for years. They have all the technology and infrastructure. So it won't be much of a problem for them. For Nepali students living in rural areas, especially those from the disadvantaged families, lack of access to basic infrastructure, technology and internet comes as a big hurdle.

Home schooling might be a solution for some people, not for all. Parents struggling to perform their jobs will find it hard to manage, especially those with limited education and resources. Due to internet connectivity issue, the government can produce and run educational programs in televisions and radios instead of running online class. Nepal's government-owned media can come to a great help in this situation.

As part of their corporate social responsibility, both Ncell and Nepal Telecom can support student's education by providing low-cost mobile data. They can also help by creating awareness about what's happening in the country. FM radios can especially be a great aid for the rural areas. The government needs to step in and mobilize its authority and resources to provide good education to home-locked students.

Parents can play an important role in helping their children cope up with this situation. Schools should work with parents to form a strategy to help students fight loneliness in this situation. Students are vulnerable to have effect on their mental health if they are not cared for properly. Both parents and teachers need proper counselling to be able to help the children.

We need to be careful of the post-pandemic situation also. The world will not be the same, and the pandemic will leave a long-lasting effect on global education. So we must be prepared for the long-term. I request the government to see beyond the short-term.

We need to work out an alternative system in education in case of similar pandemic or other natural disasters in future. It can be online system through any platform, or any other system altogether. Supportive educational infrastructure is the next thing to focus. Government should deploy all its resources in this regard. The most important thing for now is to start brainstorming and planning about what will be our best option.

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