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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 49, New Delhi, November 21, 2020

Learning in the Midst of Adverse Situation in Assam: Experience from the Covid-19 Pandemic | Nurul Hassan

Saturday 21 November 2020

by Nurul Hassan *

Abstract

The World has been facing unprecedented crisis due to Covid-19 pandemic. The Corona induced indecisive disruption makes the entire system vulnerable one. Most of the sectors are favouring new orientation in terms of processing and education is not lagging behind in this regard. At present, education is reaching out through technology and other means of actions. Subsequently, it becomes detrimental for many learners. The Corona based precarious situation is getting extensive care but some students have been facing such type of situation year after another due to their adverse ecological setting. Hence, the comparison is necessary to understand the ground reality of education system in India and Assam in particular.

Key Words: Covid-19, Ecology, Education, hardship, injustice and Assam

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Due to Covid-19 pandemic, the world has been facing an unprecedented crisis across the spectrum and undeniably it’s a great learning experience for one and all. The ongoing situation is nothing new as the pandemic occurred in different segments of history. The devastating impact has propelled the world to learn once again how to adjust with distressing condition. Interestingly for a large number of people, the situation is a new normal although the magnitude differs from one person to another. But others have been facing an awkward situation with this horrible phase in their life. Even the entire system of existing world remains as an illusion and subsequently it becomes a great learning experience for them. Due to corona pandemic, most of the nations are not only facing devastating challenges but exposes their infrastructural base also in terms of i.e. health, education, economy, transportation, diplomacy and so on. Considering all these, some core sectors i.e. health, education and economy are essential for recuperation from overall global disaster. Notable point is that these are inseparably linked with the lifeline of mankind.

The ongoing health hazard has disrupted the entire system abysmally. Unlike others education system has been facing multilayer problem in the course of pandemic. Even the school, colleges, other institutions are remained shut for long time. During lockdown, online mood of education was extensively popularised to maintain teaching learning process. Even the government had initiated different course of actions, planning so that students get at least minimum support to uphold their academic processes. Irrespective of schools and colleges or other institutions, the government order is followed or tried to follow strictly but it produces different categories of students in the larger domain. However, it is noteworthy to mention here that, the Covid-19 situation has become a common excuse for one and all including the field of academia. At present, the haplessness due to Covid-19 has got substantial importance, but it is also important to focus on those students who have been suffering year after another for a similar kind of hardship due to their ecological disadvantages. Lack of attention or inability to overcome the challenges make their life precarious one and gap among the students has been remained intact over the years.

People are not only facing health hazard, but problems like flood, erosion, displacement, socio-political unrest, violence, insurgency etc. are also very common across the region. Assam is also suffering a lot in this regard and a huge number of people have been perennially facing different form of challenges in the last couple of decades. Although students of different age group have been suffering but condition of minor children and girls are terrible here. As a result, the existing gaps among the students are surreptitiously augmenting day by day and which needs to be addressed in the days to come.

Implication of Covid-19

The Covid-19 is not just a challenge for mankind but confronting the achievement of Health Care Science too comprising the broader aspects of health security. However it provides a new extension in the study of virology in Health science. Apart from that, the entire education system has remained affected across the nation states. In the aftermath of pandemic, although the situation of World order and India in particular is relegating with new forms of problem but it introduces a new orientation of teaching learning process with great expectation. Considering this, Pravat Kumar Jena (2020) has comprehensively discussed the positive as well as negative impacts of Covid-19 on education highlighting the utility of digital platform in the midst of pandemic. The developed countries are already far ahead in using digital platform as Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) had depicted 53% digital learning in 2018 among the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (Andreas, 2020). However in India, the digital learning process is abysmally poor. But notable point is that Covid-19 has created many challenges and opportunities for the educational institutes to strengthen their technological knowledge and infrastructure (Pravat, 2020). The Government has developed different apps like Swayam, Swayam Prabha and e-PG Pathsala for higher education and similarly Diksha Portal, e-Pathsala, National Repository of Open Educational Research etc. for the secondary education and internet, television etc. are also extensively used to continue teaching learning process. As a result, a new era of education is started with the transformation of traditional path of learning to techno-education or digital learning.
The adverse situation created by Covid-19 has worldwide implication pushing the mankind in the realm of uncertainty. Although people irrespective of their credentials get infected but the ailing and elderly people have suffered more, even rate of mortality is relatively higher among them. The virus even did not spare the children including infants too. Apparently, the adversity in health care sector propels to redefine the entire system and education is one of the vital areas need to be addressed overwhelmingly. Basically the lockdown delinks all forms of relations including classroom education, peer groups or friendship, practical knowledge, collective cooperation and so on. Perhaps the entire system is forced to be limited for quite long time. The digital system becomes the ultimate option at this moment for maintaining virtual classes, online exams, assignments, and so on. Ultimately a portion of students are benefitted but at the same time a huge number of students remain deprived for such new arrangement of learning. Although it is a situational demand but for many it becomes forceful one.

Unlike the health hazard, there are different factors contributing in bringing gap among students. Usually students are assessed on the basis of performances and which is quite challenging as students belong to multiple backgrounds. The facilities provided by an elite school is totally different from the government run schools; the Public Grammar schools of United Kingdom is somewhat different from National Public School, Delhi Public School of India etc. but which is again incomparable with the government run schools in India and Assam in particular. Similarly, the schools like Assam valley, Gurukul, Maharshi Vidyamandir, Srimanta Shankar Academy and others institutions including Colleges and Universities of Assam is totally different from the government run schools, colleges and Universities. If we look at the performances, there is again a huge disparity among the students of different categories of institutions. Actually the elite institutions whether it is run by private ownership or government, the students are from humble background with adequate facilities provide advantages in comparison to the students of ordinary institutions. Ultimately their performances are not matched with the students from the schools of backward, poor, interior places. Hence, it is incomparable for their poor infrastructural base in terms of education and therefore needs attention in bridging the gap. Furthermore the changes in curriculum as well as co-curriculum activities are desirable here. From the techno-education point of view the performances of elite schools is remained stable as all round facilities are availing by them even at the time of lockdown like situation but the students belonging to those schools with lack of infrastructure, technology are the biggest loser for all the time. In fact a portion of students don’t have electronic devices at the same time some others don’t know how to handle technology and ultimately they are being deprived accordingly. This is a very recent example evolved from Corona pandemic that a section of people either entered in the era of technology or attempted to enter therein; but these people have been perennially suffering over the years for their technological paucity or lack of attention despite their ecological disadvantages. Actually, these people have experiences to manage any form of hardship for survival denouncing the tragic role of erosion, displacement, flood, violence, etc. in their life. However, most of the time, they were forced to sacrifice everything including education for the sake of safety and security. Interesting point is that despite hardship, these students have to face equal and similar competition in different stages of professional life. So, everywhere these elite class students are getting advantages or the process is remained easier for them and subsequently it unleashes injustice in the broader spectrum.
The infrastructural base of developed nations is quite different from the developing or poor one. Again within the nations, the situation of urban areas is different from the rural area. There is almost a similar situation we may find across India and Assam in particular. In Assam most of the parts are considered as vulnerable area as i.e. flood and erosion, ethnic violence, social unrest, insurgency, etc. have been constantly challenging over the years. As a result the students belong to these localities have been facing all round hardship in different capacities. No doubt, different private institutions are functioning with great expectation even in the vulnerable regions too but apart from a few, most of the institutions are inadequate in terms of academic performances and other facilities. Moreover, it is inappropriate to compare them with the prominent elite institutions of Western countries. The government institutions in India are improving in a sluggish manner including the state of Assam. In accordance with the school education, the higher education also needs substantial changes in coming days.

Due to Covid-19, all the educational institutions are remain closed for sometimes and later on they went through online classes. As per some government as well as media reports a huge number of people remained excluded from the virtual classes. Different reasons are working here i.e. lack of electronic devices, no internet connection, poor network, lack of knowledge how to operate a mobile and so on. Even a few students did end their lives either frustration or relative deprivation in the midst of lockdown. Furthermore the guardians were over burdened as they were propelled to buy cell phone for their children. But it was reasonably normal for a section of people with humble background and they even spent more suitably as their habitual practices with smart phone and other electronic devices during the lockdown. Hence, it makes a sharp distinction that students with prolific background have been maintaining teaching learning process without any disturbances but those who have no cell phone or inexperience in using mobile phone and others, are being suffered a lot. Even they spent their life during lockdown without any contribution in the overall teaching learning process. Furthermore, a section of government schools and colleges including varsities were used as Covid-19 centre, but after withdrawing lockdown, the system is regaining its earlier position but in a sluggish manner. Ultimately, the process itself has been contributing challenge for the entire system.

Adverse situation and the vulnerable groups

There is a complicacy to assess the quality of learners as they are belonging to different but multiple backgrounds. Accordingly it is also difficult to make a distinction between the elite institutions and ordinary institutions; as different categories of establishments are there in-between the two across India and Assam in particular. Some institutions are well equipped in terms of infrastructure, curricular as well as co-curricular activities, faculty-student ratio, etc. comparing others. Most of the students of elite institutions are basically from the privileged class, getting advantageous position in compare to the ordinary students. These institutions are not only concerned for students’ safety and security at present situation but even for the future too. Wherein, the ordinary institutions are only for teaching learning processes without considering their security aspects. In spite of that, a section of students have achieved great position in different capacities including their professional life. Hence, these students with vulnerable background are surreptitiously deprived in different segments of history. In fact, the starting points of those students with elite institution background in terms of academia are sometimes the finishing point for the underprivileged classes. Undoubtedly socio-economic condition matters a lot in most of the time. In a similar fashion, the life of those students facing challenges due to their disadvantageous ecological setting, are remain ignored in the larger framework of education system. On the contrary, the ongoing onslaught of Corona pandemic is definitely a glaring example to understand the lives of students from disadvantageous location and it should be treated in a proper way to overcome from their lifelong challenges. Hence, it is quite difficult to assess the capacity of students due to their multiple backgrounds or complexity in their life.
During Corona pandemic, students irrespective of their backgrounds have been facing unprecedented crises everywhere. Basically it has produced two categories of learners, one group is availing all round facilities and others are getting relatively less or technically these are deprived; however different measures have been initiated so that the gap can be abridged. Accordingly, if we consider the condition of students living in vulnerable locations, most of the students have been facing challenges for four-five months in a year. The condition of minors, girl child, and minorities are more precarious in comparison to others. Even they are neither in a position to avail techno-education nor provided adequate facilities despite their ecological disadvantages. Furthermore, the students of higher education is relatively better in position than the school students as there are more mobile phone users or have individual mobile among the College as well as University students. Even they are capable in self learning processes, but which is not possible for the youngsters. Undoubtedly, different initiatives are being introduced therein, but the existing situation deserves more special attention to improve the quality of all stakeholders.

Usually health hazard is more individualistic, but whenever it outbreaks as a pandemic becomes a universal problem with significant implication in every nook and corner and in a similar fashion we can address the capacity of learning usually varies from one person to another but ecology induced vulnerability pushes the entire system into the dockyard. The natural disasters i.e. flood, erosion etc. has been destroying year after another and which requires special attention from all walks of life. Hence, it requires comprehensive understanding as flood, erosion, other natural calamities, insurgency, social unrest have been destroying the normal environment of academic activities. Distressing situations are phenomenally presence everywhere and as a result people from different backgrounds have been painstakingly suffering in the process of survival.

Needs to Bridge the Gap

The student community is not only a dominant force for all the time but have enormous contribution in the nation building process. It requires adequate facilities so that irrespective of their background, students should get proper education for shaping or reshaping a healthy environment in near future. At present there are different policies and programmes have been initiated from the government’s end, but a few of them are not reaching to the deserving people. The problems like flood, erosion, insurgency, social unrest etc. are considered as seasonal one by the political dispensations and at the same time people are also accepting as a normal phenomenon. Certainly, thousands of students have been failing to acquire minimum objectives of teaching learning process due to their adverse ecological setup. Hence, special attention with proper monitoring is required for the comprehensive development of all.

Another notable point is that Techno-education or education through technology is becoming the part and parcel of learning process. Basically these are extensively used for acquiring knowledge beyond the classroom education. Therefore physical classroom education is essential for all. The Covid-19 pandemic induced lockdown has restricted classroom education replaced by techno-education. A section of students participated with a great expectation but the victim of flood prone area, erosion oriented area or insurgency affected area are losing both physical classroom education as well as technology based education for poor infrastructure and detrimental ecology. In every year they have been losing a quarter of their academic session due to flood, erosion etc. Even the teaching faculties have common excuses withdrawing their responsibility.
Due to the adverse situation, the gap among the learners has remained intact, but it should be minimized properly so that every individual get equal opportunities in shaping his or her life. Considering the life of disadvantageous people and their future generation, the existing setting needs to be reformed overwhelmingly. Even the socio-economic and geopolitical settings are also crucial in determining their future prospect of life.

Techno-education: way forward

The initiative of techno-education carries significance as today most of the students are entering in a new era of learning. Although the use of technology is limited, again it would be difficult to avail for all, but a small portion of learners (mostly students of higher education) have already entered in the domain of techno-education. The initiative started years before in the West, and as a result the developed countries are managing education primarily based on technology and therefore despite the devastating situation during pandemic, there was no complete disruption of education. But the developing countries are still following traditional way of teaching learning process, even it’s confined to the physical teaching only and ultimately it has limited the entire process. While the West gives an open field incorporating different dimensions of learning. In this context, the New Education Policy 2020 has been definitely working to reduce the gap considering the competence of student to be fit in the global competitive market. Undoubtedly the NEP 2020 would provide equal opportunities not only in terms of course and curriculum but entire setting of education too.

References

1. Education Times (2011). Techno Education: a Futuristic Model accessed on 10 September, 2020 https://www.educationtimes.com/article/65780288/69543909/Techno-education-a-futuristic-model.html
2. Giddens, A. (2013). Anthony Giddens Sociology, 6th edition. Wiley India Pvt. Ltd.
3. Jena, P. K. (2020): Impact of Pandemic Covid-19 on education in India, Research Gate International Journal of Current Research Vol. 12 Issue 7 pp. 12582-12586
4. Schleicher, A. (2020) The Impact of Covid-19 on Education- Insights from Education at a Glance 2020, https://www.oecd.org/education/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-education-insights-education-at-a-glance-2020.pdf

(Author: Nurul Hassan teaches in P.G. Classes, Department of Political Science, Suren Das College, Hajo, Assam)

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