Education In Times Of Covid: Pakistan Needs Urgent Reforms
The Covid-19 has forced our country to go under a smart (on-paper) lockdown. While this on-paper lockdown is under implementation, the situation is getting rather dismal.
One man who has understood this peculiar situation, is Mr. Shafqat Mehmood, the Education Minister of Pakistan, who has adroitly ordered shutting down of all educational institutions in Pakistan. This step was inevitable because of the callous disregard of the general public that flouts the government issued SOPs to contain the pandemic.
Our inability to abide by the Covid restrictions has led to a situation where shutting down schools and colleges was the only solution. But such a lockdown will also deteriorate our economic turmoil as a large number of youth will be deprived of quality education (or education at all).
Therefore, it is a responsibility of all of us, including our educational ministry, our information technology industry and our legal fraternity to reform this system and help introduce a robust mechanism that can provide education remotely to all those who yearn for it. Furthermore, it is a fundamental right enshrined in Article 25A of the constitution of the Islamic republic of Pakistan for every child from 5 to 16 years of age to be provided with quality education.
But the quality of education does not remain the same when classes are taken online — due to various factors such as unequal access to the internet.
Isn’t the right to education an irrefutable fundamental right that ought to be bestowed to everyone regardless of the situation?
Sadly, Pakistan has been bleeding badly and if we don’t do anything other than applying a superficial bandage to close the wound, we are inevitably only getting closer to our end. Therefore, it is necessary that we shift towards e-education — a system where all components of our curriculum are digitized. Not only this, we need to train our teachers in adapting to this change and still perform their noble jobs in breeding the future heroes of this nation.
Moreover, even if we do digitize our education system, we need to ensure easy access as well. For this to happen, Pakistan ought to provide free WI-FI in all of its (developing) provinces, develop computer libraries and also provide laptops to only those who cannot afford it. What this really means is that those who can afford laptops or technological gadgets, ought not to ask for such aid from the government.
Moving on, as privileged members of the society and by privilege I mean all those who have had the opportunity to educate themselves in the best of environments, we should feel empathy towards the downtrodden. The economically deficient families send their children off to work rather than study and when all means of income are lost, they become the scum of our society and have no option but to sell their dignity in exchange for money. For 70 years, this has been the tragic state of affairs of our so called Islamic country that has only undertaken half-hearted efforts towards a problem a size of the sun.
For our country to progress, institutional change in the education system is needed. And by institutional change I don’t mean the development of a single curriculum but to develop such a system that can tackle crisis such as Covid-19 effectively.
Lastly, as a lawyer myself, one such opportunity that is available for the legal fraternity of Pakistan is to seek enforcement of Article 25-A of our constitution, to reform the current education system.
Altamush Saeed is a law graduate from Lahore University of Management Sciences. He is a human/animal rights activist and works for social welfare causes. He writes primarily about social issues with a legal analytical perspective.