I have been attending online classes for three months but the experience continues to be the same – surreal and absurd. In these times, when the world is going through a crisis of great magnitude and death could be right there knocking on the door, what most school students do or rather, what they have to do is to open their devices and drably study somnolent subjects.

In physical school, we had two math periods on Wednesdays. I grew to hate Wednesdays but it all became quite bearable when I thought of the games period afterwards. Here, during online classes, in the midst of a pandemic that has wreaked havoc in the world, I have nothing to look forward to during the online classes. Not even my friends are present there.

When young minds need consoling and psychological strength to come through this crisis, all they are taught is the sum of all angles in a triangle. People might say that at least it keeps them occupied, gives them something to do but is that all it’s about? Somehow keep your children busy, finish the syllabus and burden them with homework. The true meaning of education is lost here. Whatever happened to ‘learning with creativity and fun’? Education is the enlightenment of the soul, it is supposed to be something that helps the child to overcome their fears.

Not surprisingly, more than half of school students don’t attend online classes. There are mainly two reasons for this. Firstly, most children don’t have access to proper devices for online classes. Imagine a child with only one smart phone in his family. How is he supposed to borrow it for the entire day when there are other everyday necessities such as calling and communication?

Majority of the schools had been unprepared for online classes. Although there were some schools who were starting to include latest technology for studies, these numbered very few. Most of the schools thought that they had a few more years before they actually had to think about using latest technology or moving on to online platforms. But now, the virus has accelerated or rather, “super-accelerated” this gradual process and here we are, having online classes with so many problems. There are many teachers and students alike who don’t know how to go about it and who are not acquainted with the operational niceties of computers. This is a direct corollary of a hurried and unorganized digital educational programme which wants to instantaneously improve online education in a largely de-digitized environment.

Then there are those students who are there in the class although they are actually not there. Many of my friends proudly say to me “Really? You even attend the classes? I just log in to the meeting and then play PUBG.”  Although the teachers do try their best to mark only those students present who are actually there in class but as a student, I have seen many instances when children get attendance even though they are not present. In a class with 50 students and just one teacher, there’s always room for inefficiency. It’s only natural.

Spending long hours on screen due to social media and addiction to online gaming had already made parents worried. Most children were not allowed to be seen in the vicinity of a smart phone but now the screen is the new normal. This leads to parents monitoring their children’s usage of the internet. “What if my child is not doing classes?” “What can he/she be doing?” Excessive monitoring can lead to resentment among some children. By monitoring their usage of internet, you are showing that you mistrust them. You force them into lying to you because you are showing that you will punish them if they use the internet for what you think is wrong.

Often these online classes tend to make me more stressed than I would have been otherwise. If my microphone is not working or if I am unable to log in to a meeting then I would probably be marked absent. One full day’s attendance gone. I feel so frustrated when I keep trying to answer and my teacher somehow doesn’t hear my voice. He would probably think that I am not in class. I snap at my parents to do something about the connectivity despite the fact that we have three different internet connections at home and three devices. Despite all this, I face problems. I blame my parents but what can they do when the network connection is so bad? And it’s not that I live in a village either. What must other children who are not as blessed as me go through?

There is no definitive for attending online classes at present. One can face all kinds of problems- audio, video and whatnot. Some schools have classes on Zoom, some on Microsoft Teams while others even have them on WhatsApp.

Nobody was prepared for this so we should not expect miracles. The question should not be about finishing the syllabus or doing your homework or teachers making PPTs and uploading them. It should be about how to improve this online education. How to make students think positively and how to dispel their fears at these times of crises.  We should first perfect our first move rather than thinking about the next.

Maliha Iqbal is a student and freelance writer based in Aligarh.


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