by Abid Hussain Rather
Students in Kashmir have been sufferers, always. In the recent past, no year has passed when they did not have disruptions. Every time, on one pretext or the other, the academic session gets hampered. In between the process to have their proper grooming has got the toss.
This year when little before the usual schedule the educational institutions were opened, there was enthusiasm – a sense of eagerness to resume the routine after more than six months. The teaching-learning process proceeded successfully.
Within a month, another calamity hit. This time it was beyond human control. The government had to intervene by imposing the lockdown to contain the spread. Isolation emerged as a remedy. Given the critical situation, we are in; there is a need to have corrective measures in place. As rolled out by the authorities, the classroom teaching was taken to the virtual world. It was an attempt to prevent the loss. 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 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 cannot help us in delivering our lectures online, it is not much benefit to our students of lower grades.
Zoom, however, provides free video telephony and online chat up to a hundred participants it has many security and privacy issues. Since its launch in 2013, its software products have faced public and media scrutiny related to poor information privacy practices and computer security vulnerabilities. Besides, Zoom needs a high-speed internet facility and our valley sans 4G internet service from the past eight months.
So the only alternative for online lectures is either YouTube or the television as a medium for conducting on-line classes. Students can use YouTube for studying during these circumstances as lectures on almost every topic are available on this global platform and these lectures are uploaded by professionals.
Our worthy teachers can also upload their lectures on YouTube to help the student community. The students can later clear their confusion 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.
Like few countries have stated communication through television to their students, we can also replicate the model. Television communication in the present scenario can be of great advantage. An online telecast through television can reach to every corner. It has no speed constraints. The students can also take help from their teachers through telephonic conversation. Messaging can also help in clearing the confusion, specifically the WhatsApp. It can also be helpful in facing the present academic challenges. Teachers can share the study material and assignments among their students through the WhatsApp group and can have group discussions on different topics.
As the administration has taken the initiative, the teachers are implementing it successfully. The benefit of this initiative would reach the majority of the community, there may be few who will leave behind. Lacking the latest gadgets and inaccessibility to the internet causes hindrance. A way should be found to help them as well.
Besides government authorities and teachers, it is the responsibility of every individual in our society to help the student community, at the individual level, and societal level.
We as responsible citizens of our society should stand with this initiative to prevent the loss. Encourage it. Stop criticizing it. Let us all get united to fight collectively against the challenges faced by our academic scenario in the present lockdown situation.
(The author teaches Geography as Government Degree College, Kulgam. Ideas expressed are personal.)