Callous attitude towards education

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Anum Rashid

EDUCATION has always been the last priority of the governments during the past in normal times as well as during any upheavals. The indicators of education in Pakistan are daunting, and always an eye-opener. According to the UNICEF report there is an estimation of 22.8 million children out of school between the age of 5 to 16 and Pakistan stood second among the highest out of school children. In Pakistan, being a patriarchal society gender inequality is witnessed at every stage of education. Disparity is there based on geographical location and socio-economic status. The allocations of funds for the education sector in budgets is always on the lower trajectory revealing its importance by the policymakers. Once again when the Covid-19 mayhem has engulfed the country the indifferent attitude is meted out towards education putting the sector on the back-burner.
The government should pay special attention to education during this chaotic time, but unfortunately faulty policies are having detrimental impact on already fragile education system. All the students from the early years of schooling to the highest degrees in the country, facing the brunt of the policies. The online system initiated once again widen the gap between rich and poor. Digital divide is created and inequality is aroused. The nomenclature of online education is novel in Pakistan that is full of loopholes and comparison of our online system with the developed nations would not be judicious. Schools are sending the homework shifting the entire burden to the students and their parents. Moreover, every student has not educated parents, and are not technology savvy to cope up with the situation, thus once again the gap between the students is widened. Furthermore, the facility of homework availability is also available for the privileged students, whereas the students of the remote, and downtrodden areas are seeing the complete closure of educational activities since March. The universities have succeeded in fulfilling the formality of passing the semester at the undergraduate level with the help of online classes. Online exams are conducted during the semester that resulted in replicated answer sheets with students so weak in their moral and ethical values. The evaluation of students become an uphill task in such a scenario in which Tom, Dick and Harry stood in the same line.
Moving further up the ladder and discussing the research-oriented degrees, the issues of research students are entirely different from the undergraduate students, but unfortunately government has made the uniform policies from the undergraduate level to PhD level during this ongoing Covid period. The activities of the MPhil and PhD degrees can be performed as per routine because students are very less in number, and they can follow the standard operating procedures in a very responsible manner. The ill-fated policies of the decision makers resulted in the wastage of five months with no one ready to take the responsibility of the loss of students. The expectations of the government are always very high from the researchers and PhD students for bringing the solutions of the problems faced by the country. How can they have such a high expectation with meagre budgetary allocations for education, research-oriented activities, and when they are treating a bachelor and PhD student alike. Despite the requests from the several fronts to investigate the matter for revisiting the policies government turns deaf ear and bring an irrevocable loss.
Education sector is the only one left behind, whereas all other sectors are working in full swing. The government is expecting to follow standard operating procedures from all the sectors except the educated class. The government must discuss with health experts whilst opening the educational institutes. Why they don’t need suggestions when opening the other sectors? Why they don’t listen to the health experts while opening multifarious sectors before Eidul-Fitr resulted in the skyrocketing cases of Covid-19? It seems like all the virus disseminates from the educational institutes. Looking on the other side of picture parents are reluctant to send their children to educational institutes because of virus, and clouds of fear prevail on their minds. Why they don’t feel fearful while roaming in the crowded shopping malls and densely populated markets without following SOPS along with their four children? Are educational institutes being only the hub of Coronavirus? How can we look for a progressive Pakistan with such a mindset? The fact cannot be negated that there is a huge lot of students who have no access to any learning activity during the pandemic period. Those who have access to learning activities are full of gaps. There is a need to revamp the policies by taking into consideration the issues of the students. The progression of the nation lies in the deliverance of quality education. It is the time to think that without up to the mark education Pakistan as a nation, will always lag behind. The further oblivious attitude of the policy-makers will result in a bleak future.
—The writer is Lecturer at COMSATS, Islamabad.

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