The School Education Department of Kashmir has started taking audio classes in collaboration with All India Radio (AIR) in order to reach out to the maximum number of students amid the lockdown.
The goal is to engage students and to reach out to them during their confinement to their homes during the coronavirus lockdown. The lessons are being aired by AIR, Srinagar, during the day with specified time slots.
The Directorate of School Education (DSEK), Kashmir had started teleclasses on March 26 through the Kashmir channel of Doordarshan Kendra, Srinagar with two classes aired daily.
Remote learning by AIR and Doordarshan will be beneficial, but the challenge is also to deal with the hardships that people have been facing since August. The social and psychological development children are also being impacted by the stagnant, rigorous lockdown.
“The primary impact will be on the socialisation skills of children,” explained Arif Maghribi Khan, a psychiatrist in Srinagar.
“Sitting in a classroom with 10 other kids teaches [a child] how to interact with 10 different people. That can’t happen in an online classroom. Children might grow reclusive,” he added.
Across the country, the idea of online classes has taken over. This, however, is a long shot for Kashmiri students, where 4G internet is still unavailable.
“Our school announced online classes several weeks ago but the lack of high-speed internet makes it hectic. Most of the time, the connection gets lost and we have to reenter the session. The video quality is very poor,” said Rafiq, who relies on 2G mobile internet to attend online classes through the Zoom video-conferencing app and receive lectures through WhatsApp voice notes.
G N Var, the head of Private Schools Association in Jammu and Kashmir says that this lack of 4G will cause a generational gap between the students of Kashmir and the rest of the world.
A familiar lockdown
On 5th May 2019, India abrogated the limited autonomy of India-administered Kashmir by revoking Article 370, which was the key to Kashmir’s 1947 accession treaty with India.
This was followed by a harsh lockdown with India sending tens of thousands of troops in addition to the 500,000 troops already posted there, imposing a curfew, arresting thousands, and cutting almost all means of communication.
In late January 2020, after being cut off from the world for almost 6 months, the Kashmir Valley regained access to a list of government-approved websites through 2G Internet connection. Early in March, broadband services were restored.
Soon after the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, Kashmir has lurched back into the state of stringent measures with new rules being imposed on social gatherings. The mosques have been found empty, and the markets are closed.
As of May 23, the region has 1489 confirmed cases.
The new lockdown seems like a light of hope for the Kashmiris in order to prevent the spread of the virus. “People are choosing to stay home. There is consent,” says 34-year-old businessman Tasaduq.
The main roads in Kashmir have been sealed off with barriers being erected at several places in order to check the unwanted movement of the people and to enforce the lockdown.