K-P struggles to put education back on track
Education department makes efforts to make up students’ lost time, shift from online mode to physical classrooms
In an ensuing scramble after the federal government’s announcement to reopen educational institutions across the country in phases, the authorities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are making efforts for the smooth transition of mode of education from online to physical classrooms.
However, this is not the sole concern of the provincial government as it has to ensure not only adequate measures for the resumption of studies, but also implement strategy to protect students from the clutches of the lethal virus.
As the deadline for reopening educational institutions has been extended from January 25 to February 1, the education system is also fraught with the task of making up for the wasted learning time.
The current approach accentuates the rural-urban divide not only in terms of learning but also when it comes to the facilities at the urban centres.
The schools were shut down in March 2020, owing to the fear that children might get infected or become carriers, putting the elderly at risk.
The decision was widely appreciated and the schools remained closed, but the children and their education suffered. As soon as the curve flattened (after the first wave) schools, colleges and universities reopened with strict Standard Operation Procedure (SOPs) in place at the institutions.
With the beginning of the second wave of COVID-19 in November 2020, the government decided to close down educational institutions once again, leaving students at the mercy of tutors.
The government and institutions also announced online classes for students, however, it was almost in vain due to internet connectivity issues and lack of devices, particularly in the recently merged tribal districts.
It was an equally daunting task for the parents to provide separate devices to their children and ensure internet connectivity at all times.
In light of the debacle that the education system is facing due to the pandemic, educationists have emphasised on extra efforts to make up for the lost time.
Former assistant director education Qaiser Khan told The Express Tribune: “We have been witnessing this since a year and the only solution in my opinion would be to reduce the syllabus. This will enable students to learn enough to pass their exams as the focus should be on learning rather than merely passing exams.”
Khan also pitched the idea of conducting extra classes to expedite the learning process.
Despite the decision to reopen schools from February 1, the education department officials have stated that over 50% of the institutions will remain closed, particularly in the “hard” areas.
“By hard areas we mean places where the mercury drops below 1 degree Celsius such as the erstwhile FATA districts, Swat, parts of district Dir, Shangla, Battagram and districts Kohistan,” said Director Education KP Hafiz Ibrahim.
In KP, it has been reported that round 4,500 educational facilities lack toilets, which presents another problem for students.
Commenting on the subject, Ibrahim claimed that toilets were functional at most of the facilities, admitting that the situation might not be the same for the recently merged areas. He said that funds were being released to overcome the problem.
The official further said that the educational activities were said to resume by January 31 in these areas, however, it does not seem likely. “Even if the schools open in these areas, the education department has made arrangements for implementing the SOPs.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2021.