Education in Nepal after COVID-19
Bhoj Kumar Dhamala
United Nations estimates nearly 1.6 billion learners have been affected by the outbreak of corona virus disease (COVID-19) in more than 190 countries, creating the largest disruption of the education system. The closure of the academic institutions has impacted almost all levels of students throughout the world, and there is no certainty when these institutions will reopen.
With no immediate measures to control this pandemic it will not only impair the learning ability of children but also create a huge socio-economic disorder in the population, adding the sky rocketing rise in poverty level.
The education system is hard hit by COVID-19 in Nepal as well. Nearly 900,000 students are affected by the closure of the academic institutions. Half of the academic session has gone futile due to this COVID fear. Distance learning has been materialized to disseminate the classes via radios and televisions in a hope to engage the students but its outcome is really worrying. The government is striving not to waste the academic session but educationists question virtual classes’ effectiveness.
The effort of the education ministry to shorten the length of the course and validate the online teaching learning process, even though late, is somehow praiseworthy but the disparity in education is the hindrance to achieve the goal. There is no equal access to education given the uneven conditions in gender and socio-economic background of the parents.
The government believes in the possibility of conducting teaching and learning using virtual classes and distance learning, but only with 35 percent penetration of internet to the total population, out of which 85 percent internet users are city dwellers, it will be a herculean task to fully accomplish the output in this context. According to the recent survey done by Teach for Nepal only 4 percent of the total affected students are in access of internet. If we are to rationalize this, completing the academic session via online/alternative learning will just be a fancy.
Children from poor, marginalized, and vulnerable communities have less access to opportunities for (online) learning during this closure. Aside from general poverty, the increased unemployment and loss of income of the families due to COVID-19 is expected to affect the learning opportunities of children from lower income families.
The crisis has stimulated innovation within the education sector. We have seen innovative approaches in support of education and training continuity: from radio and television to e-classrooms but only a handful of private schools are able to concretize it in Nepal.
The closure of the institutions has brought new hopes and aspirations to the entire teaching learning pattern of the world. The physical chalk-to-talk classroom is being transferred into virtual digitalized classroom. The schools are transforming themselves to techno-friendly learning activities.
Though this paradigm shift is remarkable, it still lags behind our expectations. This sudden transition from physical classroom to e-classroom added dilemma to the stakeholders. However, there is no alternative this time. With less access to internet, ensuring well informed and equipped teachers, as well as pupils and students, working completely in new circumstances will really be difficult. Transforming ourselves and our behaviours takes time.
With low income and no equal internet access to every parent and student, it will bring additional plights in education sector. For the time being, the government must take the initiation to provide free internet access to every citizen. This will actually support the government fulfilling its aim and will support parents who have to bear additional financial burden. Similarly, the government must assure that everyone has the fair chance to survive supporting and being supported. Many institutions are prone to perish due to this pandemic.
We know that the world will not be the same after this crisis. New expectations will emerge in terms of the links in the communities, in terms of teaching, in terms of strategies, mobility, health, and in terms of values themselves. Assimilating ourselves with the course of time should make us courageous, confident, and acknowledged.
We are in a great chaos but we are still hopeful for the new opportunity.
The writer is a Principal at Zone Academy Boarding School, Bouddha, Kathmandu.
Published on 14 September 2020