Unheard Miseries Becoming Mute

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A professor told a friend from his sources that companies/organisations might not be interested in preferring students graduating in the pandemic years for hiring. Reason – they are being taught ‘online’. What options do the students have in the middle of a raging pandemic? Moreover, how can an unprecedented ‘situation’ define our competency? However, this prejudice of potential employers itself reflects the dysfunctional online education module with no pedagogy.

The raging hue and cry of the many lives being lost in this devastating 2nd wave have further silenced the miseries of students – both school and college students – who are apparently “studying online”. In a digitally divided society with discontinuous Internet access, students are expected to perform as good as if things were “normal”. In an interview of a school student, plausibly going to appear for offline exams post 1st wave, he said, “giving offline exams after studying online is like joining the army after playing PUBG”. This might invoke humongous laughter but his metaphor is completely accurate. In addition, the personal challenges with online education are still unaccounted for.

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With a collapsing healthcare system and thousands dying every day, how can one ask for education? Will it be selfish to seek answers on the learning front when a pandemic cause havoc on the entire socio-political-economic system? NO! This is not how governance works. If the health ministry is responsible for looking after the health welfare, there is an entire education ministry (at both centre and state levels with further decentralised units) obligated for taking care of the right to education. The LSR student who committed suicide is a testimony of the mental toll this pandemic has been taking on the immature minds of the students. But she did not die because she lost emotionally, she was murdered by a failed system. It was a ‘social murder’.

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It is saddening that none of the states has bothered to individually identify and address concerns of students going through such sufferings. Had Darwin been alive today, he must have added ‘privileges’ to his ‘theory of natural selection’ as sooner or later the disadvantaged students are going to succumb to the grave present mismanagement and distribution of resources.

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In another setback, SC quashed Rajasthan HC’s order that upheld the state government’s order to private schools to collect only 70% of the fees, asserting that “this is akin to rob Peter to pay Paul”. Despite some relaxations conferred by the SC, the order does not come as a major relief. Why can’t the state itself subsidise some part of the fees that it intended to waive off? Why can’t the schools and colleges of the entire nation be directed to do away with the impractical overhead fees that they have been collecting in the name of maintenance, electricity, water, sports, labs, stationary among others? That too when families are paying for the Internet to access the online classes.

At one end of the spectrum, EdTech start-ups are rising at a phenomenal pace to become unicorns by providing “luxurious” e-learning resources and methods in the urban market; then there are kids on the other side of this world pondering on the wish that maybe they had a smartphone.

The entire Covid catastrophe had made social welfare take the back seat as saving lives is an overhanging priority. Indeed, it is. But with curfews and lockdowns sprouting, and in the times when the chief scientific advisor himself is sure about the fact that a third wave is inevitable (allegedly more threatening to kids), how will the education system within its current status sustain the many lives of aspiring and hopeful students who want to learn and earn.

Governments need to wake up! A full-fledged survey must be conducted to singly identify the sufferers and aid them with all the amenities that they rightfully deserve. There is no data that can comprehensively project, let alone identify, the beneficiaries of the PM-eVidya scheme.  A central policy with no reach will do no good. Tele-education (Swayam Prabha) will not help children without TV. The government’s DIKSHA or SWAYAM app cannot be installed on a smartphone that a family never bought. An online pedagogy needs to be worked out in priority to at least structuralise and institutionalise online education. Huge groundwork is required to legitimately and empathetically address the genuine concerns of mentally and emotionally pained students. Else, these unheard miseries if normalised will eventually turn mute forever.

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Namit Gupta
Jack of all trades | Political Enthusiast | Hopeless Romantic | Cinephile | Theist

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