Internet Ban Chokes Education

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Srinagar: Even as the government is all set to “enforce” examinations in November, the four month odd ban on internet has only furthered the woes of student community, which has been unable to reap benefits from online means of education.

From offering virtual classrooms to educational portals dedicated for dissemination of full-fledged tutorials composed by some of the best names in the sector, students world over have been reaping the benefits of e-learning on the world wide net.

But at a time when New Delhi flaunts “Digital India”, a Modi-government’s nationwide flagship, Kashmir has been a story of e-curfew since July 8 when militant commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani and his two colleagues were killed, putting the Valley on the edge.

Since then, the mobile internet and other similar facilities have been kept off, depriving around two million phone users of the online connectivity. The only source of internet connectivity available with the people of Kashmir is broadband, which feeds but a mere 16,000 clientele, including government offices.

This means except for a fractional portion of the population, majority of people in Kashmir have been deprived of internet access for “security reasons” since the day Kashmir erupted.

While almost everyone has been facing inconvenience due to internet ban, students seem to be the biggest victims.

“My mobile phone had become my gateway to education. I would regularly take lessons from the Youtube where teaching videos explained the things practically…  But since the day government banned internet, I couldn’t learn even a bit,” complained a class 10 student, scheduled to appear in the final exams from the second week of November.

Iqbal Khan a parent said for over five years he would prefer that his children “clear the concepts and learn the subject to its optimum, online.” “Internet was truly an unmistakable blessing for learning but unfortunately Kashmiri children have been systematically deprived of this,” he said.

Interestingly, some of the ministers in the Peoples Democratic Party led government have been banking for the education of children through online tutorials. Take the case of Finance Minister, Dr Haseeb Drabu, who often says he prefers web portal of “Khan Academy” to teach his son, a schoolboy studying in a metropolitan city.

A teacher at Kashmir University said over the past few years web surfing had emerged as a “reliable choice” for students and scholars for learning and research alike. “Even if the educational institutions had remained closed, education would not remain causality provided internet was on,” the KU teacher who teaches Mass Communication told Kashmir Observer.

The government has taken a stiff stand over holding of final exams when schools have been shut for running 116 days, and students are yet to complete even 50 % of curriculum.

Experts said had the government kept the internet working students would atleast have been left with an option for access to e-learning. “But this internet gag has truly deprived the students of their right to information, which is plentiful available online,” said Dr Showkat Ahmed Zadoo a prominent educationist.

A senior official in the education department endorsed that over the years the students had become habitual of exploring e-learning facilities. “Modern day schooling cannot be seen  without internet. I really don’t understand what this government is really upto,” said the official asking not to be named.

Despite problems being faced by the people, the state government is reluctant to restore mobile internet facility in Kashmir, apprehending that it would fuel unrest.

A senior police official told Kashmir Observer that restoration of “normal internet” services look bleak. “The kind of intelligence inputs we have, I don’t think internet will be restored fully for another six months,” he said.

Education Minister Naeem Akhter has been stressing for holding of exams even as he has assured relaxation in syllabus. But he has been “strategically silent” on e-learning, something which he was stressing on for schooling prior to the unrest.

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