Online classes and students of Gilgit Baltistan
Jan 21st 2021 | 4 Min Read
In Pakistan, a sudden outbreak of COVID-19 in the middle of an academic year in March 2020 led to online scrambling classes. Nobody knew it was coming, and the shift was unplanned. And its adverse educational effects hit the students of far-flung areas more than anyone else. Students of Gilgit Baltistan are struggling and fighting this pandemic for their rights to an education. A lot of bright students belonging to this mountainous region are currently enrolled in metropolitan universities. When the pandemic struck, they were forced out of hostels to make their way back home: to areas that go through infrastructure neglection, which are digitally unequal with other regions of the country, and the people face devastating poverty in unforgiving weather. Moreover, some studies in Gilgit Baltistan institutions and the harm has not been any less.
Most Gilgit Baltistan students avail scholarships and other financial support for their studies at universities and other colleges: not everyone has androids, laptops, and other gadgets necessary for online classes. The majority of the people use #SCOM4G for internet access, given that everyone does not have WIFI at home. The flexible learning system that the state has introduced and has ordered to take online classes requires a fast and robust internet connection. Keeping in the account the situations students here miss out on their lectures: sometimes the video lags or the voice disappears in the middle of the courses, or the zoom class disconnects over again. Some of the students have stated that they do not know when their assignment deadlines begin and end, and they are after making submissions even after the semester has officially ended.
The #SCOM4G network does not work well everywhere. Students have to climb to high places or sit on the roofs to get internet access. And even in these situations, their grades are being compared to the rest of the students in their class, making them feel how ignored they are, further exacerbating socio-economic inequalities within societies. In such conditions, students cannot score good grades due to missing out on their education and are worried about their near futures.
Sum of all the conditions listed above brings lack of interest of students’ because they now know that no matter how hard they work to avail internet access their hard work will not pay off. Besides, online classes invite a bunch of distractions with them. Students do not understand much through this learning system, so they do not bother to pay attention, and some even fall asleep during class timings without knowing when their minds shut down: they wake up to teachers calling out their names sometimes. Moreover, the new learning system has deprived students of any in-person interaction with their instructors or other fellow students. Maximum of them cannot participate in the class because their voice will not reach another end of the zoom class. Besides, there is no one watching over the students. They have started to take their education lightly.
Next, the pandemic situation and online teaching system is something that nobody has seen before, and people have no experience in dealing with this novel situation, so do the teachers. Some instructors are troubled to take their classes online. Sometimes, they do not know how to conduct the class on zoom, and other times nature of the subject does not allow them to make the goals of teaching clear. Such as mathematics and speech communication subjects. Courses of speech communication demand a lot of public speaking and a live audience for participating. They include a matter of confidence and body language that is not fulfilled through online media. Since nobody is watching over students' shoulders, they can easily read out any of their writings instead of speaking. Therefore, the purpose of the course is not achieved.
An online learning system is a trial and error method that does not work in remote areas, especially in mountainous regions. Walking up to hills and open grounds to catch internet signals is comfortable during the summers when the weather is a bit forgiving, but this technique has messed up during winters. The temperature in North goes below zero on the negative scale. Yet, Gilgit Baltistan students go out of their homes during snowfalls only to take online classes where they can get a bit of access to the internet. In harsh weather, it is difficult for them to sit on wet ground and attend lectures. They barely can note down anything because their hands get frozen and turn red. The students are bearing these difficulties not to compromise with their academics.
A lot can be done to avoid all the trouble and save students’ interest in perceiving education through an online approach. The government can make sure the internet works by providing internet devices in one of the underprivileged areas' main centers. This will help the students download the recorded lectures and watch them even if they have missed the live classes. A lot can be done for Gilgit Baltistan students and other distant areas only if the authority wishes to take any majors.