Kathmandu: Satish Pathak, a pupil of a private school in Kathmandu school was taking online classes from his teachers, and he was preparing for his Secondary Education Examination (SEE) which has been now postponed indefinitely owing to Covid-19. For the past 10 months, Pathak was continuously taking virtual classes. However, the case of online classes is not the same throughout the country.
Laxmi Sharma, along with her 117 classmates of Dang-based Shree Secondary School, who are also the candidates for SEE don’t have the same privilege of taking virtual classes as Satish. Throughout the entire academic year, they were able to attend physical classes only for a couple of months, which was not enough even to complete 50 percent of the course.
“I am worried about the upcoming exams, and I feel my future is already uncertain. The pandemic has egregiously affected our studies,” Sharma said, adding “I have been studying and preparing for the exams on my own, but I feel a strong absence of guidance. I could have cleared my confusions with the teachers if the physical classes were running.”
As per the Economic Survey of Nepal (2020), only 12% of public schools across the country offer internet-based classes.
The practice of conducting online classes has started since the first lockdown, however, Sharma’s school is unable to follow the trend yet. The Principal of the school Samjhana Sharma said, “In public schools like ours, it is very hard to regulate the online classes. The number of students is very high and the majority of them can’t afford the devices and the connectivity needed to attend the virtual class”.
As the school isn’t able to conduct online classes, it has distributed some specialized learning materials designed by the Education department of Lamahi Municipality to help its students in their studies. But this cannot be an alternative to the virtual classes.
What’s worse is, this is not an isolated event. Data suggest that most public schools in the country have failed to provide online classes. As per the Economic Survey of Nepal (2020), only 12% of public schools across the country offer internet-based classes.
A large number of students around the world have been deprived of education due to the sudden closure of schools. According to UNICEF, at least a third of the world’s schoolchildren – 463 million children globally – were unable to access remote learning when COVID-19 shuttered their schools.
The same report also states that In Nepal specifically, more than two-third of schoolchildren are deprived of distance learning. Similarly, only three out of 10 children have access to television, radio and internet-based learning platforms. Among them, only 80 percent of children use distance learning platforms for their learning activities, the report reads.
In yet another instance, Naina Swar, a 10th grade student from Kalikeshwari Higher Secondary School- a public school based in Achham is deprived of online education. Swar too has attended physical classes for only a couple of months, and the school has completed less than 50 percent of the academic course.
Experts say that the digital divide among the students do not only affect the education sector, but also the different aspects of society.
Both Sharma and Swar have quite similar reasons behind not being able to take the online classes. “The area where we reside doesn’t have proper internet connectivity, even the mobile data doesn’t work well here. This is also one of the main reasons that make unavalabilty of online classes for us”, Swar shared.
Experts say that the digital divide among the students do not only affect the education sector, but also the different aspects of society. Education expert Balchandra Luitel says that the current educational scenario is a threat to the proper functioning of the society. “If the students become deprived of education, it may affect their thinking ability. They might be unable to differentiate between right and wrong while being detached from education which is definitely an unhealthy thing for society.” said Luitel. He also informed that this digital divide has violated the students’ right to education.
“The present educational situation is an outcome of the concerned authorities’ incompetence in developing ICT infrastructure,’ said Luitel, adding “To overcome the situation, all three levels of government need to build the mechanism that could address the gaps which are observed due to the digital divide.”