Background: Education ministers held a meeting on Monday which was chaired by Federal Minister for Education, Shafqat Mahmood. A few suggestions and recommendations were discussed however no final decision was taken and the government announced that another meeting next week would take place to further deliberate on the issue.
Propergaanda launched a survey in which we asked people one simple question
Do you think school and colleges should be shut down?
The response we got was overwhelming, students had different take on this suggestion. While compiling the answers we looked a little deeper at the roots from which this uproar against the education system is coming.
This report will provide statistics compiled by the comments we received and interviews we conducted. In addition to this we have listed some issues faced by both teachers and students. These are not mere complaints or rant rather concrete evidence that the Pakistan Education System has failed both students and teachers.
Physical Damage: Online education systems have forced students, parents, and teachers alike to make a tremendous change in their daily routine. To sit in front of a screen for straight six hour leaves severe back pain and deep headache.
While talking to PG, a recently graduated student Fareeha, explained the phenomenon of zoom fatigue, she said that the fact that we’re constantly talking to a screen is exhausting and agonizing. Fareeha Hashmi has graduated from Government College University and is working as a content curator for a private NGO.
There are two ways to see the physical dangers of this education during lockdown and after lockdown. During lockdown most of the classes shifted to an online system which was supposed to make things efficient, on contrary students struggled to keep up with the deadline for assignments and examinations. All of this made the already stressful time; excruciating.
But when universities/schools/colleges were open again; circumstance got more dangerous. Rabia shared her experience about the university transport facility which is not following the SOPs whatsoever. She said that university administration is ignorant to the fact that students have to compromise their safety during a raging pandemic. Transport department is filling up their buses with students and the whole concept of SOPs is tattered.
Mental Damage: “I can hear my professor’s voice in my head all the time now,” said Rabia Naseeb who is an undergrad student in a public university. The stress and anxiety of all these assignment deadlines is a common issue faced by the many students. While sharing her experience with the online education system, Nimra, a graduate student, said that, Education has become more of a commodity now and our relationship to the system is very transactional. Teachers are more interested in collecting the assignments from students than actually providing something substantial in terms of knowledge.
This anxiety and panic is associated with the alienation that comes from this new normal and will leave chronic damning results on students as well as teachers.
Hamna Khan, a private university student shared that there is a constant fear and anxiety of catching the virus among students who are attending the schools/colleges/university now. Unfortunately, lack of cooperation from university administration for not attending class is nerving. She added that, this is not just me. Most of the students are in a constant fear of losing their chance at a degree incase of falling ill and not getting any leverage from the university when it comes to easing down very strict attendance policies.
Contract Teachers: Apart from physical and mental damage, teachers who have been hired on contracts have paid the price heavily. Many of the teachers have either lost the contract and others are still requesting the administration to pay their salaries. We got in touch with a teacher from a public university who shared her experience about online examination. She said, I understand how a lot of people want to be normal or want to get away from homes because of mental health suffering during lockdown but I think the mental health aspect will get twice worse if we are also physically compromised.
Recently one of her colleagues had to resign because the administration cancelled their pay during the lockdown period.
Unfair Fees: In millions of other issues an unfair amount of fee is the last nail to the coffin. Many universities have not given any concession at all. A university student said that Zoom class doesn’t qualify as real in person classes and charging 70,000 Rs/- for them is ridiculous. This is a rough time for all of us. We’re not sure when this will be over, many families are using their savings now as businesses are highly affected.
Some students in LUMS also protested against the increase of fee during lockdown, while talking to PG a student said, I can’t believe that I have to show up at university amid the pandemic just to protest against something which is not unfair but morally wrong. I’m risking my life here just so university administration can take our demand seriously.
No SOPs and Social Distancing: There is an uproar for substantial change from students of both public and private institutions. As we have witnessed that it is nearly impossible to regulate SOPs in schools and colleges because of incompetent administration and lack of resources. This behavior is putting the lives of students at risk now. Recently many students from a private school tested positive. We met a student who currently quarantined after testing positive for Covid. He said, It doesn’t matter if your school administration has the resources and equipment required to curb the issue of social distancing. No one is following any SOPs and social distancing is a joke within school premises. Many of my friends tested positive within a week after schools were open but still our administration ignored this issue consciously.
These concerns are just tip of an iceberg, the surge in Covid cases is more than ever in Pakistan. Unfortunately our administration is playing with fire here. We’re risking students and teachers’ mental, physical health. Apart from that, financially many contract teachers are struggling because their salaries are due and there is no sign whether they will be able to receive it.