Students struggle to get their fair share of education amidst the pandemic while desperately waiting for things to get back to normal
KATHMANDU, JUNE 12
Santosh Kafle,16, has lately been spending his days either playing video games on his mother's cell phone, watching TV serials or video chatting with his friends on social media. The tenth grader from the Valley has been busy with these sorts of activities ever since the prohibitory orders were put in place in the Valley, amidst the pandemic.
However, Kafle said that he has been resorting to the aforementioned activities "as an escape from the monotony caused by the long boring day inside my room and the unproductive online classes which don't cater to my needs as a quiet student".
He finds the online classes unproductive as he does not get the confidence to interact with his teachers. "I feel shy to ask questions online which wasn't the case in physical classes," he admitted.
However, he is feeling relieved these days as his online classes "formally stopped around a week ago after the government decided to publish the results of our Secondary Education Examination (SEE) based on internal evaluation from our school".
According to Deepak Sharma, Spokesperson at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the Cabinet meeting decided not to conduct physical examination for SEE this year. It decided to conduct SEE through internal evaluation from the respective schools.
Though a decision has been made regarding the SEE, students pursuing other levels of education are having a hard time due to the uncertainty regarding their examinations.
And many students like Kafle are facing problems regarding online classes and are worried as exams are not taking place on time since the education sector has been adversely affected due to the pandemic.
"I studied on my own during last year's lockdown so that I could make up for the loss in studies due to lack of physical classes.
However, the recent postponement of my exams due to the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic has made me wary about my overall education and career," shared Keshav Bastola, 25, a Bachelor's level student of Humanities and Social Sciences at Tribhuvan University (TU).
On a positive note Bastola shared that he "will fight against all odds and make the most of the free time during the prohibitory orders by studying harder for my exams".
However, Sushma Aryal, 24, who is pursuing her MBBS degree at Chitwan Medical College (CMC), Bharatpur feels that the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has "seriously hampered" her studies.
"I had to come back home here last year as my college was closed indefinitely due to the pandemic. I had been able to return to Chitwan to pursue my studies just two months ago with the pandemic under control.
However, I am back in the Valley again as the new wave of the virus has again closed my college," Aryal shared.
According to her, she is finding it very difficult to understand the subject matters taught in the online classes conducted by her college "owing to technical disturbances as well as lack of free communication - as compared to online classes we used to communicate with teachers more freely in physical classes".
Hence, Aryal, a final year student, has been feeling "anxious" as she questioned, "How can I score well in exams and become a good doctor in the future if I don't understand my subjects properly?"
The pandemic has also hit many students planning to pursue their higher studies abroad due to travel restrictions.
Deepak Silwal,19, who had scored "a 7.5 in IELTS and was already in the final process of applying at a few prospective universities in Australia for scholarship" now feels "uncertain" about his higher studies plans abroad.
"Firstly, all my excitement of scoring well in IELTS has faded away since I can't go to Australia any sooner due to the travel restrictions.
Secondly, the uncertain nature of the pandemic coupled with new virus variants popping up in the country and abroad has made me feel safer to stay back home rather than going abroad with uncertainties."
Silwal, a science student seems to be at crossroads between fulfilling his dream of studying abroad and the reality of the circumstances, as he said, "Now I have been waiting desperately for the prohibitory orders to be lifted soon to make a wise decision regarding where I should be studying."
Equally concerned are parents who believe the current crisis will have a lasting impact on their children.
One such parent is Anjan Pahadi, 54, a daily wage worker from Dhumbarahi, who has lately been "very worried" about his eighth-grade daughter's studies.
Pahadi shared, "My daughter had always come first with excellent grades in all the different schools she studied at. However, she has been feeling very lethargic and uninterested in studies ever since last year's lockdown and it's very disappointing for me since she is the only one who is educated in my entire family and we all have high hopes from her."
Pahadi also doubts the quality of education "under the current circumstances when schools themselves evaluate students without taking physical exams".
He questioned, "What good can such cheap certificates bring to our children in their career? I have managed for my daughter's studies by working my fingers to the bone, but will she now be able to make good use of my sacrifices?"
However, Ghanashyam Wagle, a retired Professor of Education at TU said, "Since the whole country, including the education sector, has been suffering from the pandemic, students should not be frustrated and take it personally. Also, since many students don't have Internet access, they should be ready to adapt to the changed circumstances and make the best use of either the primary or secondary sources related to their studies that they have access to."
He said that "since students are the future of the country, the government should try its best to make sure no student gets deprived of their fair share of basic education even in times of crisis like these."
A version of this article appears in the print on June 13, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.