Students from different regions of South Waziristan tribal district enrolled in various universities of Pakistan have been protesting for the last few days over unavailability of 3G and 4G internet in merged tribal districts due to which they are unable to take their online classes.
The protesters are demanding government either to fully restore internet service in merged districts or ask the universities to postpone the online classes as they were not able to take classes otherwise their studies would badly be impacted.
Following the outbreak of coronavirus in Pakistan, the government ordered the closure of schools, colleges, and universities across the country.
The Higher Education Commission (HEC) had directed all universities and accredited institutions with sufficient resources to start online classes.
According to an official notification, HEC had asked all universities which have well-built learning management systems (LMS) to initiate online classes. This way, education will not be compromised.
Moreover, universities facing technological, technical, or spatial limitations can remain closed for academic activities till 31 May 2020 and mark the period as summer vacation.
For the purpose, HEC has introduced a mobile application named ‘Zoom’ for students on which the students can attend online classes after signing up. The students can register their attendance and also take part in group discussions on this app.
While talking to us one of the protesters and a student of Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan (AWKUM) said there was no use of online classes of the universities until the internet service is restored in the tribal districts.
He said that the provincial government had promised them of providing and restoring the internet facility in the region but they are yet to take any action on their hollow claims and promises.
Another student without mentioning his name said that they were happy for this positive and innovative move of the government to start online classes but they must firstly provide the internet facility to this deprived region otherwise it will not bear fruits.
Meanwhile, an official from the government told us that providing internet facility to the tribal region was on the priority list of the KP-government; adding that Chief Minister is very much concerned about the matter and will take up the issue with federal government very soon.
It is important to mention that CM-KP Mehmood Khan las year in March had inaugurated the cellular service in tribal districts which connected erstwhile incommunicado tribal districts with the global network.
Higher Education Commission HEC Islamabad has also decided to stop all low quality online courses. HEC will direct the universities and educational institutions to stop such online courses where requisite conditions are not met. A number of students from different parts of the country are complaining against the quality of online courses being offered by the universities.
Despite concern, KPK government has not yet address the issue either by directly engaging the protestors or addressing them through media. KPK information minister Ajmal Wazir needs to be more proactive on the issue due to precarious situation in merged districts and the efforts of few political fractions to use student frustration for their vested interest. KPK govt also needs to incorporate security agencies input before taking final decision on the issue as the area though largely peaceful still have a possibility of terrorist presence.