The School Dilemma

Schools in Pakistan – and around the world – were one of the worst-hit
sections of society following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now children will go back to school under a new normal.

By Maryam Sadriwala | September 2020

Schools shut down in Pakistan as well as around the world when coronavirus pandemic began to spread its insidious tentacles. It was the end of February, just two months into the much anticipated year 2020, when lockdowns swiftly fell into place and, in Pakistan, schools were the first to shut down.

The private schools in Pakistan did exactly what other schools all over the world did—they moved into the virtual classroom. Despite all the criticism being thrown at how expensive and ineffective online education is, and whether it is worth all the trouble, the fact is that there was no other choice. Ask the children enrolled in government schools because they cannot even afford this virtual compromise.

Teachers have begun to grapple with the frustration of teaching online, struggling with ways to effectively engage students to ensure proper learning and carry out reliable assessments.

Students, on the other hand, are having a hard time adjusting to this virtual means of education and are missing their friends and routine with an intensity like never before. Many top students admit they just can’t connect mentally in an online class; their attention spans have wavered and the learning process has slowed to a tortoise pace.

Not to mention the parents, who are paying the exorbitant school fees and managing having moody children indoors at all time. Some parents still haven’t come to terms with the fact that online education is very close to home schooling where most of the responsibility falls on their shoulders.

Now, with the number of cases apparently dropping in Pakistan, and the ‘smart lockdown’ maneuver being hailed as the right move, there is again talk of schools reopening in September. The Private Schools Association is demanding that schools be allowed to open as everything else certainly has, with or without SOPs. Yet, are we actually ready for such a step?

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The writer is co-author of the book ‘A History of Dawn’ and is actively involved in the field of education. She can be reached at maryamsadriwala@gmail.com

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