NASIR ALTAF LONE:The circumstances in J&K aren’t always same to rest of the world,as the world countries near to complete 150 days of lockdown due to pandemic COVID -19,now with relaxations following SOP’s,the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir has completed over 384 days of Internet Clampdown where Internet speed is restricted to 2g onpy except in Udhampur and Ganderbal Districts of JK. Since 5 August 2019 when Article 370 of indian constitution was revoked,on the same day all communication lines were taken down by authorities and restrictions were imposed in Kashmir valley which were later on lifted in phased manner over the period of six months.As people were coming out of this shock the whole world witnessed the pandemic Coronavirus (covid-19) which has taken more than Eight lakh lives round the globe.Since then world is locked up.J&K too is facing Covid-19, at present 7626 are affected, 25205 have recovered and 617 people have died.
In Kashmir, school education has been severly affected over last few months.Firstly Schools in valley were closed for six months last year because of the situation following the abrogation of Article 370 by central govt. As teaching goes online in valley,the restricted internet speed is an issue by which both students and teachers are suffering.
A Report of UNESCO mentions more than 157-crore students across 191-countries were severely impacted by closure of educational institutions with more than 32-crore students being affected in India alone.
Online classes in Kashmir/ Teacher,Student views
As authorities directed the officials to conduct classes online,teachers from both the government as well as private schools have started to deliver lectures through various platforms like WhatsApp,Zoom App and Google Meet,Google Classroom etc.
Shahista Hameed name withheld who teaches english at Govt. boys higher secondary school uses WhatsApp and Zoom Applications to connect and deliver lessons to her students.
“ I personally love the ‘online education’ and belive that it should be an integral part of the curriculum and not just add on.The student response is overwhelming,the only drawback in J & K is restricted 2g internet,” Shahista said.
Issues faced by the students
Khalid Altaf, a 2nd year student of B.A LLB at Kashmir University uses Google Classroom,Microsoft Teams to connect with university for attending his classes.
‘’ Internet is usually shut in Kashmir that makes it almost impossible to study online,fortunately at present we have an access to internet but the restricted speed is the main barrier by which these online classes loose their meaning, ‘’ Khalid said.
He said most of you can just hear the voice of your teacher but can’t see him and sometimes even his voice breaks due to low speed internet. In Subjective subjects we students somehow manage but when it comes to the practical part of that subject,its impossible for teacher to explain and for students to understand.
He also mentioned frequent internet shutdowns in valley adds misery in our lives.How come can we appear in exams with internet speed where a 5mb file takes 15 minutes to complete download.In addition to mental trauma we dwell in because of conflict and corona we are given more than enough assignments to prepare. We are subjected to worst kind of mental harassment, he added.
Abrar Zargar, a 4th semester student of B.A at Govt. Degree Collegge Baramulla aslo uses Google Classroom app for online classes says ‘I’m worried about my future,don’t know what’s written in my fate’.
“ It feels like we are second class citizens in our own state,we are not treated like people from the other parts of the country.The government is testing our emotions which is turning our neutrality into negativity against the state, ‘’ Zargar said.
He said in coming days I’ve to appear in examinations and am supposed to submit my assignments to collegge authorities, I’m struggling to download 10mb PDF’s with low speed internet how will I upload my assignment which is a bit bigger in size. And if a youth remains uneducated how will we serve the society ?, he added.
Bilal Wani, a student of B.Sc. 1st semester had recently admitted himself at GDC Baramulla.He says, ‘’ I’ve not been to my collegge even for a single day,I don’t know the names of my teachers.He takes his online classes on Google Classroom.
He said, I’m only given Assignments on Google Classroom but there is no one to make me understand the topics given in the assignments,practical work is totally missing there and how can a student of biology and chemistry understand the topics without doing practicals, he added.
Adil Yousuf Bhat, a final year student of Bachelors in Journalism and Mass Communication is persuing his degree at Chandigarh University,Punjab.He is taking online Classes via Webinar.
‘’ I came back to home five days after the abrogation of Article 370, when I landed at Srinagar airport there was no network in my phone,all communicaton lines were shut in Kashmir.Thankfully I reached my home safely.I’ve been confined to four walls of my home from last nine months,at first there were restrictions following the situation in valley and now here its pandemic followed Lockdown.Before some months when restricted 2g internet was restored in Kashmir, since then I’ve been taking online classes.
He said,I am interacting with teachers on daily basis but low speed internet is the problem that results in buffering and other issues.I’ve been to different states of India like Delhi,Banglore, Rajastan but have never seen such internet connectivity issues there.Practical and field work is totally disturbed here and govt. is only issuing advisories on social media,they should restore 4g internet in J&K as soon as possible,else this exercise of online education in valley will be futile, he added.
Another student of Journalism seeking anonymity is doing her Masters of Arts in Mass Communication and Journalism at University of Kashmir told, ‘’ we never know when internet services will shutdown in Kashmir because here it is not a new thing,even if internet is working the speed is too low which itself disconnects us from online classes.And in UOK,teachers overburden us by taking long durational classes because it takes a longer time to connect on low speed internet.
We would love to interact with our teachers and even can complete our asignments but it is only possible if there is high speed internet,govt. should restore 4g services in Kashmir so that whole student community can atleast take these online classes, she added.
Besides this in remote areas of kashmir less than 50 percent of the students are not economically and technologically sufficed to learn through the online education system,they don’t even have the smartphones.As govt. has started tele classes for primary classes it should also look after the issues of the students studying at Higher Secondary and Collegge Level.
In month of April, J-K govt. ordered the mass promotion of students from class 5 to 9 and class 11 whereas 10th and 12th class students are waiting for the response of the govt.,also University of Kashmir has directed its affiliated collegge to promote the students on the basis of Internal Assessment Process.
As students have to prepare the assignments and other projects, most of them are of the view that govt. should restore high speed internet in Jammu and Kashmir so that they will not face any issues in Uploading/downloading important subject material and during their live streaming classes on Zoom App or Google Meet App etc.