4 July 2020, Kathmandu
The government of Nepal has enforced nationwide lockdown since March 24 to stem the spread of COVID-19 pandemic for more than three months now. Though the lockdown modality has been little bit changed to ease public life, all educational institutions in the country have been still shut down. In response to the outbreak, many schools and colleges in Nepal have commenced online classes with distance learning methodologies and techniques.
As the new information and communication technologies are soaring, it has become possible for both the students and teachers to conduct the classes without being presented in the classroom physically. The initiation of online classes by many educational institutions is praiseworthy creating support to abide academic activities safely. But, have we ever thought that such virtual classes be able to meet the needs and demands of all students across the country? Of course not, it is because in Nepal, majority of students outside major cities are deprived of quality access to internet and they can not afford high rate of internet service provided to them. Thus, this is creating huge inequality in education sector within the students. The pandemic has affected the global educational system and Nepal is no exception.
Study shows that approximately 65-70 percent of the population of Nepal uses internet. As shared by the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA), more than 250 new users were connected to the Internet every hour last year. The growth in the internet has been facilitated by increasing mobile connectivity, availability of browsers and data connection even on relatively inexpensive phones, said the NTA. In contrary to this, the rate of the internet is high, and the internet speed is not up to the mark to support online education particularly during this pandemic.
On the other hand, most of the internet users in Nepal are either officers or businessperson or corporate bodies while minority of users are students. The majority group of students are from rural areas pursuing their study in a government school. Some students are not even able to afford necessary educational stuffs during normal times as well. Indeed, many households even do not have their own smartphone from which they can access the internet. Similarly, all teachers are not well equipped and trained enough to run the classes effectively with no disturbances.
Thus, e-learning, while extremely beneficial in some aspects, is also equally challenging in others. And one of the biggest challenges in implementing an e-learning system in Nepal is the challenge of digital divide. In the simplest sense, digital divide is the gap between those who have access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and those who do not and it is a very pertinent issue for a developing country like Nepal. The first and perhaps the biggest challenge is poverty.
Besides, the dissatisfaction over the teaching-learning processes, many are also not very happy with the way assignments are given to students. They are expected to do all the assignments based on online researches with very little or no proper instructions. This maybe because we are living in a world where whatever the internet says is correct! But all time it is not applicable.
It is impossible for us to learn through software’s forever. The idea of isolating oneself inside four walls while trying to listen to the teachers’ lecture is dreadful. Teachers need to put their effort in making learning more varied, interesting and less repetitive. Before launching such initiation, educational institutions should have done feasibility analysis and identified the necessary challenges.