Abid Hussain Rather
The student community in Kashmir valley has always been unfortunate. They suffer from academic losses almost every year due to unfavourable academic atmosphere in the valley. From past many years, the academic calendar has got disrupted by strikes, curfews, bandhs and other likely unfavourable conditions of the valley which adversely affects the study of students and in turn has a bad impact on their career building process. During the current academic session, all the educational institutions were vigorously reopened after winter vacation and the students enthusiastically joined their classes for the teaching-learning process. But not more than a month had passed and the concerned authorities have to close all the educational institutions due to prevailing pandemic situation in the valley. As we all are well aware of the fact that the only way to restrain the spreading of present pandemic disease is social isolation by staying at home, so the government authorities find it necessary to announce complete lockdown in the valley and hence all the government offices and educational institutions were unwillingly closed. In this critical situation, we need to check the further academic loss of our students and we along with our government authorities should try to help our student community in order to minimize their loss. In this regard, the concerned authorities tried to replace the actual teaching-learning process by virtual methods. Since virtual methods can never be a replica of the actual teaching-learning process, but they can be of great use during this pandemic as we are not left with any other option.
Teachers in Kashmir valley are using various platforms to teach and guide their students like online classes on Google Classroom, WhatsApp Groups, online audiovisual lectures on Zoom Cloud Meetings, telephonic counselling and many other methods. Google Classroom is a platform to streamline the process of sharing files between teachers and students. It only helps in distributing and grading assignments in a paperless way. Since it can’t help us in delivering our lectures online, so it is not much benefit to our students of lower grades. Though Zoom provides free video telephony and online chat up to a hundred participants it has many security and privacy issues. Since its launch in 2013, it’s software products have faced public and media scrutiny related to poor information privacy practices and computer security vulnerabilities. Besides Zoom needs high-speed internet facility and our valley is sans 4G internet service from the past eight months. So alternatives to these two approaches are online lectures available on YouTube and using television as a media for conducting online classes. Students can use YouTube for studying during these pandemic conditions as lectures on almost every topic are available on YouTube and these lectures are uploaded by professional experts. Our worthy teachers can also upload their lectures on YouTube to help the student community. The students can later clear their confusions from their teachers through telephonic calls. Besides, there is time flexibility for students in this approach and they can watch the lectures at their convenient time. So this alternative is better than the former two methods. The concerned authorities can take a great advantage from television communication in the present scenario. The concerned authorities should telecast online classes on television sets as it has the maximum reach in our valley and it doesn’t need any internet connection. The students can also take help from their teachers on telephonic calls and messaging services and thus can clear their confusions. The WhatsApp can also be helpful in facing the present academic challenges. Teachers can share the study material and assignments among their students through WhatsApp group and can have group discussions on different topics.
The government authorities and our worthy teachers are using various virtual methods to help our students in the present situation. Though some of the students may not get benefit from these methods and approaches due to non-availability of latest gadgets and inaccessibility to internet services at least it can be helpful to some of them. We can’t reach to each and every student through a single approach but we can be helpful to most of them through different ways and means. Besides government authorities and teachers it is the responsibility of each and every individual in our society to help the student community at their own level and capability. So we as responsible citizens of our society should not be critics of these alternate and virtual methods of teaching but rather we should be encouragers and helpers. We all should fight collectively against the challenges faced by our academic scenario in the present lockdown situation.
(The author teaches Geography as GDC, Kulgam. He can be reached at email@example.com)