The Chairman of Higher Education Commission(HEC) Pakistan, Mr Tariq Banuri on 18th March announced that his institution has apprised all the universities to commence the classes ‘online’. He also added that they have asked broadband companies to increase the bandwidth for universities to stream the classes without any hindrance.
However, the call for online classes seems suitable for regions (Punjab) where internet is not a luxury but a common commodity of daily life. In Balochistan, it is an alien thought that people can learn without a board and pen that too sitting at home. The situation of education system in Balochistan can be understood by looking at the data that only 38 percent male adults are literate and surprisingly the number plunges to only 18 percent for female adults’ literacy rate.
Considering the already deteriorated education system in Balochistan, online classes would only mean depriving the already meager number of people who have turned towards higher education. Kech, the second most populated district in Balochistan, is denied the basic right to 3G/4G internet connectivity, that too deliberately by declaring it a security concern. Similarly, District Panjgur, Kalat and Mastung also have kept deprived of 3G/4G connectivity for unknown security concerns for more than 5 years now.
The mentioned districts are considered urban and populated regions in Balochistan, in the remote areas, even a simple phone connection is considered a blessing. Students in Balochistan who have returned from their universities in Karachi or Islamabad will be affected the most as their university authorities cannot assess the access of internet to their students, nevertheless, they will continue the courses.
On 26th March, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority issued a statement that a 15 percent increase in internet usage has been observed since the lock-down in the wake of coronavirus pandemic. It also read that the authority can manage a further increase in usage. Interestingly, authority being capable of such an increase never increased internet availability in the deprived regions.
However, there is a silver lining in this situation. Students living in the capital city Quetta or Khuzdar district(Among the few districts which have internet connectivity) have been seen engaging the people through online awareness sessions regarding the pandemic when the conventional awareness seminars were impossible to hold.
Online classes are seen far from benefiting the students in Balochistan as long as 3G/4G connectivity is not restored in previously mentioned districts.