Digital Learning Amidst Covid-19
As the 22-day summer break comes to an end today, students in the state will get back to their virtual classrooms in two days. The state government declared summer break for schools and colleges just days after it was forced to close due to alarming spike in Covid-19 cases across the country, including Nagaland. Though the closure of schools came just weeks into the resumption of traditional classroom teaching after more than a year, the “summer vacation” tag gave hope for early resumption of classes, be it online or offline, making students mentally prepared to get back to learning after the break. Now, the department of School Education has issued certain guidelines for conduct of online classes like duration of online sessions from pre-primary to class 12. While the department has also mentioned several details like lesson plans, assignments, etc. in its guidelines, the main issues that hindered flow of information and learning process during the lockdown last year are likely to resurface. Having experienced the behaviour of students in virtual setting earlier, teachers may find it easier to monitor and control their classes as well as grasp the attention of their pupils better this time. However, students from economically weak families and those from rural areas, who have been badly affected by the lockdown, will suffer again as they can’t afford to buy gadgets to access online classes.
Another big challenge for virtual learning is “internet”. Hill stations like north-eastern states, including Nagaland are known for slow internet speed or lack of it. When people living in the state capital city Kohima and commercial hub Dimapur face internet connectivity issues, how can one expect good internet connectivity in rural areas and far-flung districts of the state? Citizens of Nagaland have been crying for decent internet service, fast enough to access basic information issued by the government from time to time and to enable students access study materials and online classes but to no avail. When the rest of the country is talking about launch of 5G, people of the state are finding it difficult to apply for various government schemes and even to book a slot on CoWIN app for Covid vaccination because of slow internet. The government of India should seriously look into ways to improve internet service in the Northeast at the earliest and ensure that it reaches rural areas. Unless this problem is solved, Digital India campaign and virtual learning, which is expected to continue until the Covid situation normalises, will remain a farce. Instead of providing education to young minds, it will cause wider learning gap between the haves and have-nots, and the rural and urban population. In the meantime, educational institutions and teachers should come up with ways to ensure that no student is deprived of education or left behind because of their family condition or location of their homes. Parents too should monitor their children and make sure that they attend classes because summer vacation is over.