KATHMANDU, Jan 8: Had it not been the COVID-19 pandemic, Kusum Panta, an undergraduate student at Golden Gate International College, would have already graduated with a Bachelor degree in Arts around this time. She would have then been following in the footsteps of her parents attending the long-awaited Public Service Commission (PSC) examinations.
Kusum, the first child of her family, always dreamt of becoming government officer and serve the nation. But due to the ongoing pandemic and lack of seriousness on the part of the government authorities concerned to conduct PSC exams on time, thousands of youths like Kusum are facing uncertainty as the pandemic continues to cripple the education sector.
Saugat Tamang, also an undergraduate student pursuing Bachelors in Civil Engineering at Khwopa Engineering College, is currently attending online classes from his home village at Sindhupalchowk. “The virtual classes have started but they are not as effective as physical classes,” he complained. “Poor internet connectivity is the main issue and I have no idea when the days will be normal.”
Sangey Hyolmo, a graduate student was recently awarded a scholarship to pursue Masters in Buddhist Studies but due to the pandemic, he has been unable to enroll in Delhi University in India. “If everything was normal I would have already been pursuing my post-graduate course. Right now, I am just hoping for this situation to get normal as soon as possible,” he said.
Nepal detected its first case of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on January 24, 2020 and reported first local transmission on April 4, 2020. For the first time, the government enforced nationwide lockdown to curb the further spread of the COVID-19 on March 23, 2020, which was later extended further. Employment sector, education sector and health sector are among many different sectors that were hit hard following the outbreak of the COVID-19.
In recent days, the government has been conducting postponed examinations of some undergraduate and postgraduate levels but many are still awaiting notice from the Office of the Controller of Examination.
Colleges and Universities that have enough financial and technical resources are conducting online classes for their students but those lacking such resources have lately started conducting physical classes. Students are largely questioning the effectiveness of such classes. Due to the suspension of exams and closure of schools and colleges for so long, starting a new academic session has been difficult for most academic institutions across the country.
However, educationists argue that the country is facing problems in the education sector more because of weak administration and planning than the pandemic itself. Dr. Bidya Nath Koirala, Head of Department of Central Department of Education at the Tribhuvan University blames unwillingness of the administering body to bring radical change in the education sector behind the crisis seen in the education sector. “This kind of uncertainty may be seen time and again until radical changes are not introduced in our system,” he added.
Students are deprived of education during this pandemic because our schools and education system lacked infrastructure and technologies, Koirala argues further.
Adaptation toward digital education was smoother in countries with proper access to technologies and the internet but this has been far more challenging for countries like Nepal now. Advancement in technologies and change in the mindset of those in the decision making bodies are the real need to bring reforms in the educational sector.