PESHAWAR: By Wisal YousafzaiJanuary 02, 2021
While bidding farewell to the year 2020, we cannot forget the indelible mark it has left on the global healthcare systems due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Likewise, the virus-hit year has also revolutionised the ways of disseminating information and learning processes across the world. Pakistan has not been a different tale, however, being a developing country it has grappled to modernise and uniformly implement methods of learning for students.
Since March this year, schools, colleges, and universities were closed during the first wave of COVID-19. The educational institutions had no choice but to shift the entire learning process online. But when it comes to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — which was freed from the clutches of anti-education terrorists in the not so recent past — online education for every child has become a distant dream.
Mostly, the schools in the remote areas have no internet access while those who have in the urban areas, spent most of the first half of 2020 familiarising themselves with the new mode of instructions. Due to COVID-19, an estimate put the number of children adversely impacted by the online education system at
Hundreds of parents struggled to buy the latest devices for their children’s education.
The pandemic also took a toll on the education of 22.8 million out of school children. Out of 51 million affected children, 417,000 are refugees. According to the International Rescue Committee Pakistan report’s survey, 18% respondents believe that the educational institutes took steps to educate children through TV or social media, while 5% utilised distance learning methodology.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Finance department allocated Rs133,760 million in its 2020-21 budget for the elementary and secondary education in the settled areas, while for the merged district, Rs19,825 million were cut out. For the higher education sector, the current budget for the settled areas was Rs12,791 million, while for the merged areas Rs2,334 million were allocated.
An official, on the basis of anonymity, said that the education department trained teachers in the current budget to teach students online. “It is a fact that the online education system cannot be implemented in government schools as most of the children are from poor and middle class backgrounds and cannot afford electronic gadgets like mobile and laptop,” he added.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Qamar Naseem, Program Coordinator at Blue Veins, said that due to the pandemic, the girls’ education has immensely suffered. He added that an estimated 22.8 million children, aged 5-16, are not in schools in the country. Currently, Pakistan has the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children, according to UNICEF.
“In our culture, parents priortise to educate their sons while ignoring girls’ education, as the virus pandemic has not only increased the drop-out ratio of girls from schools but also increased child marriages in the province,” Qamar Naseem added. Professor Dr Sareer Badshah, an educationist, told The Express Tribune the Pakistani education sector is already flailing as compared to its developed counterparts, expressing fear that the impact can be catastrophic in the near future.
In the same vein, the educationist expressed hope that in the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, both schools and students seem better equipped to gain knowledge and continue educational activities.