Impact of Covid and Digital Divide on University Students in Pakistan

Current lockdown amid the second wave of corona is affecting the University  Students and their academics. Students are facing many problems but the most  important problem is the huge divide in Pakistan’s education system, which is  known to almost everyone, the impact of this technological and digital divide was  always there but now It became more clear and magnified in this situation of  COVID-19 second wave lockdown. According to PTA (Pakistan  Telecommunications Authority), only 80 thousand University Students have  access to internet or digital devices. Some elite and top universities mostly private  Universities are engaging their students to deliver effective and proper online  classes, as they had access to the necessary infrastructure but most private and  public sector universities are conducting online classes, without any consultation  with their students or fully understanding the kind of issues they would have with  these classes. Pakistan has a young population but only four percent have access  to higher education. But even from this small percentage, a large number of  students no longer have access purely because they come from rural areas. Many  students from the urban area with all facilities debate about the positive impacts  of digital and online education which are less consumption of fuel, decrease in  accidents, less stress, digital literacy and work from home opportunities but in spite of all these plus points many problems are waiting for their solutions and  students facing those problems are looking toward government and their educational institutes. 

There are many complications surrounding online education in Pakistan; students  are being charged the same tuition fee as Physical classes although they are not  using the facilities of campus; Students have concerns about the quality of  lectures and they also have digital learning phobia; but the most painful thing,  especially for students in remote, borderline and rural areas of Pakistan, have  been the long rides to cities just to attend these classes because they don’t have  signals in their areas. Many students who could not attend these online classes failed their subjects and dropped out. 

In the backdrop of this crisis exists an undemocratic education system whose  policies are determined by those belonging from the privileged classes residing  in power centers. It seems that they are totally unaware of the lives and hardships  of the vast majority of the people in this country. Even when a campaign was  launched by students raising concerns over online education, nothing practical  was done for their plight. After so many months, the priorities remain the same:  it is the business as usual. 

Internet has become a basic necessity of our times and in many ways can be seen  as the yardstick between the advanced and poor societies. Students and their  miserable conditions are demanding that an extensive educational infrastructure  be built across the country as this is the need of our present and future times.

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