Poor and Pestering: 2G-Online Classes ‘Killing Curiosity’ in Kashmir

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At a time when students elsewhere are making the best use of the internet amid pandemic lockdown, Kashmiri students continue to grapple with poor connection and pestering online classes.

Sajad Bhat | Jyotsna Bharti

EVERY morning, as clock strikes 10, Sameena, 16, becomes alert, as her Budgam-based teacher appears on her mobile screen for an online lecture. With a fresh gusto, she keeps looking forward to it — mainly as an escape route from her weary routine.

Holding a marker in his hand and standing in front of his white board, her teacher delivers lecture on high notes, seeking reassurance, every now and then: “You get my point, Beta?”

Even as she joins the online chorus, “Yes, sir”, she ends the lecture, an hour later, on a sulking note.

“What else would you do, if your mandatory class is becoming an everyday headache for you,” Sameena, a Class 9 student, from Srinagar’s Nowgam, said.

“The grainy video, the frequent drop calls, the background noises, the poor sound quality, and the unreadable words on the board get on your nerves, and make the entire learning process a pestering experience.”

Why is it happening?

“What better results can one expect from 2G network,” Shakeel Shuja, a Srinagar-based teacher who daily gives three online lectures from his home, said.

“The entire process driven by the slow-internet merely makes us teachers as some talking heads. We can’t even read the proper facial expressions and body language of our students on mobile screens. This is pathetic. We’re running these online classes for the heck of it, as 2G internet defeats the very purpose of the learning process.”

Despite drawing a biting bad press and repeated online protest, the administration in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir keeps issuing a fortnightly update on the 4G network.

Citing ‘sovereignty and security of the country’, among other reasons, for maintaining the status quo on the high-speed mobile internet in J&K, they keep extending the deadline.

Even the judiciary recently put the ball in the court of the executive, which banned it in the first place, for a 4G review.

But as the deadlock refuses to end, Kashmiri students—most of whom had last visited school on August 4, 2019, a day before New Delhi abrogated the special status of J&K and plunged the region into the communication crisis—are growing weary indoors.

“We’ve now stopped even complaining about it,” said Sadaf Mirza, a Class 12 student, who regularly suffers from the poor-network driven online tutorials.

“Somewhere down the line, the current regime wants Kashmiris to beg for everything — even for a basic thing like internet. It’s clear that they want to send out a message that beggars can’t be choosers.”

Notably, New Delhi justified the abrogation move last summer, saying it’ll create a highway for development in J&K.

“They made the entire country and world believe that they’re foreseeing a developed Kashmir where children are no more suffering for education, where college students are given all the right to go to college without hindrance, where people would be allowed to live with dignity and harmony,” Mirza continued.

But the reality is something else.

From 10 months, said Omer Lateef, a college-goer from Sopore, the promised development is nowhere seen.

“The internet connection they promised is getting snapped off anytime they want,” continued Lateef, a Humanities student.

“The plight of Kashmiri students is not even considered. Their future is uncertain and vague right now. The one important thing which helps a society to grow is education, which in this part of the world has been long quarantined.”

Students Elsewhere

At the same time, students from the mainland are progressing in pandemic without facing the internet hitch and hiccup.

Goutham Ramesh, a student from Coonoor, Tamil Nadu has already finished an online course — he calls ‘a big boost’ for his career.

“The course I finished consists of 24 video lectures—with an average time of 16 minutes per lecture,” Ramesh told Kashmir Observer.

“It requires good internet connection, since it’s not downloadable content. You’ve to take the classes on Udemy [an American online learning platform for students]. I received a certificate after completing my course.”

Similarly, Minu Nair, from Ernakulam, Kerala, is busy exploring her career amid COVID crisis.

“Considering the whole job war going on right now, I’m learning digital marketing to boost my career,” Nair said.

“I already did a few digital marketing courses like Social Media Marketing: Strategy and Optimisation, Google Search Ads or Google Online Fundamentals. There’s so much to learn from the internet.”

These days, Ryan Jena, a journalism student from Rayagada, Odisha, is taking part in many online workshops.

“A world without internet is meaningless,” Jena said. “I say this because of the progressively rushing world around me.”

She has been taking up workshops online, ever since the lockdown has commenced.

“This time has given us all enough time to retrospect and I’ve been working on myself, as a budding writer, photographer, and a self-taught musician,” Jena said.

“The internet has definitely been helpful during this lockdown and much before that too. My heart goes out for those who don’t have these privileges, which I think is every individual’s right.”

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