The covid-19 quandary is far from over, the third wave has commenced in Pakistan. Cases are rising day by day. As the pandemic is proceeding speedily across the country, the government has begun taking steps to prevent the UK-variant of corona virus to increase. The government has implemented a two-week smart lockdown in many cities including Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sargodha, and Rawalpindi. Due to which Federal Minister for Education announced the closure of educational institutes from March 15.
It is feared that lockdown of educational institutes is going to hinder students’ learning since after lifting of restrictions the students hardly adapted to their schedule. Fresh closure will disrupt the regular class activities yet again and it’s hard to tell if they will be ever able to get their syllabus covered within the year. Government may have to cancel annual summer vacations for making up the wasted time due to lockdown and closures but doing so will be equal to putting students to risk in another way.
Schools’ closures also carry high social and financial damages as following the decision of lockdown many institutes prepare to return to online learning. Online learning can never be a substitute for classroom learning but it is better than no learning at all. But here the major challenge is outreach of electronically delivered class lectures. Video streaming usually requires a high-bandwidth and if hundreds of thousands of students are going to avail it, one can understand how much this requirement will inflate.
Unfortunately, only a fraction of people in Pakistan has access to gadgets and the internet. Online learning has created a gap between those having and those without high speed internet access.
Distance learning programs tend to be disordered and frustrating, even in the best circumstances as the teachers are hesitant how to manage association with students to maintain learning. Direct interaction with teachers and peers is vital for students.
Many educational areas including social interaction are highly affected due to lockdown. There are other adverse effects that impact the students and their ability to learn. For example weak eyesight, behavioral issues, and sleep deprivation among students are found to be higher in this lockdown.
School is not only the source for gaining knowledge but it also teaches emotional learning to students. Students acquire friendships, learn to share and care, and gain self-control and tolerance. Thus due to social isolation, frustration, depression, and loneliness are seen among young students.
Online distractions is another major problem students struggle to cope with. While connecting for online classes or submittal of assignments, students can astray easily by attractive online ads or social media buzz resulting in loss of time and focus.
As the 3rd fatal wave of COVID-19 has hit Pakistan, the health of students must be a priority. But to mitigate the negative impacts of the lockdown, educational institutes need resources to recover the loss of students. Institutes need to learn from past experiences and devise effective plans to revise their methodology. On the other hand, government has a more critical role to play. As distance learning is depended on availability of high speed internet, ensuring its availability across the entire swathe of the country must be top agenda for government. Without high speed internet, there is a clear and present danger that Pakistan will eventually loss a large chunk of its otherwise very intelligent and able youth.