A group of students from different universities who have erected a tent at a sand dune in Tharparkar for online classes, share the problems they face in e-learning
It was expected that technology will storm the process of learning, and with cost, time, and convenience advantages, e-learning will be extremely popular. Yet, it has not proved so encouraging in rural and remote areas of Sindh or such other parts of country. The question arises ‘what is the future of e-learning in Pakistan, especially in rural areas of Southern Sindh?’
The answer is here. Look at the photos of a group of some students from different universities including University of Sindh; Mehran Engineering University Jamshoro and Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam who have set up a tent, 3-km away from their village Bitri Thar at a sand-dune for online classes.
When asked about merits and demerits of e-learning or the problems they are facing, Pardeep Gulab, student of English Language and Literature, University of Sindh, said: ‘We’re not against e-learning; it is not that we don’t intend to cover our semester course within the specific time period. In this outbreak novel COVID-19 this is a good way to continue the academic system.’
“But the majority of the students from rural areas of Thar don’t have access to electricity, drinking water, proper communication system,” he said, and added “I’m sure that universities will not come forward to sort out these issues neither they had mentioned in their planning and prospectus that if such kind of disaster attacks they will adopt such a system. It’s not the solution but a way forward.”
E-learning has numerous positive attributes and disadvantages as well. “One must realize that being online on WhatsApp and Facebook doesn’t mean that Zoom can easily be operated here. The telecommunication agencies are not contributing a single penny for social packages. Who will pay for data package?” he questioned.
“E-learning may be considered as a viable method in urban areas of the country, but not in the areas like desert district of Tharparkar,” the students said.
Meanwhile, some social activists also raised the issue on Twitter by tagging telecommunication companies. Manoj Genani, a freelance journalist tweeted that telecom companies should come forward by providing internet devices free of cost to the students so that they study by online classes.
Some students also protested against online classes. In a number of towns of Tharparkar including Mithi, Islamkot, Diplo, Kaloi, and Nangarparkar, students chanted slogans and demanded that universities should take decision after doing a case study on the basis of ground realities.
Chief Executive Officer, Thar Education Alliance, Partab Shivani expressed that ‘STEM technology is growing and taking place with the flow of time rapidly, and ultimately we’ve to own this virtual and e-life.’
“I believe we all agree that e-learning is here to stay. It is likely to grow worldwide however there are certain challenges to overcome. If properly used, the Internet provides up-to-date and unlimited resources, we can’t deny technology importance, however the telecom companies should take this issue seriously,” Shivani concluded.
The Tharparkar-based writer is a freelance journalist