Students pursuing Bachelor-level, PG and Master-level classes in Colleges under various Universities in Nepal are in shock because of COVID-19-generated tensions.
They appear particularly stressed over issues like
- continuity (or discontinuity) of their classes
- maintaining (or inability to sustain) their acquired course- related- knowledge/skills in absence of prolonged teacher’s guidance or access to appropriate learning materials
- promotion (or lingering in same class) to upper level-semester
- sitting for exams (or facing prolonged uncertainty about them)
- paying (or not paying) fees (dues) for education due to parental inability forced by loss of their income
- fear of being disadvantaged (or lagging behind peers) because of their personal (family) backdrop, geographical location, accessibility to ICT and financial ability
In addition to those tensions, students also encounter challenges to re-shape daily life, thinking, behavior, game-way, relationship-pattern, peer-gossiping, leisure-engagement, recreation –modality for keeping their health (cognitive, physical, mental, attitudinal and emotional) intact.
Those worries are really tall for youths in their adolescence. They cannot tackle them themselves. Parents and Colleges cannot respond to those tensions by themselves. They need support from all stakeholders of education. Government, Universities and financiers should join hands first to understand the agonizing problems biting students and then undertake suitable measures to support them. If this is not done there is risk of outbreak of depression among youths which will prove more dangerous than the virus which forced the strategy of lock-down and stay at home over the past month or so.
Urgent measures to respond to the situation could be
- Guaranteeing continuity of education at all levels as per University calendar
- Ensuring access to teachers concerned for keeping students’ knowledge/skills refreshed
- Assuring promotion to upper level (on the basis of internal assessment of Colleges concerned or short cut but safe and standard mode of examination under appropriate supervision)
- Aiding students and also Colleges financially under an adequate, transparent modality to continue their functions in modified ways
- Counseling for reshaping way of life during and after COVID-19 crisis
The measures cannot be taken in accordance with the prevailing rules and regulations of Colleges and Universities for the situation is unprecedented. Universities and Colleges, high decision makers, planners and policy makers and other stakeholders of education, should therefore work out an emergency-strategy for changing rules and regulations for coping with the crisis. They cannot take long for developing such a strategy. They do not have any option either. Negligence in this regard could be disastrous for higher education sector in this regard.
History of Nepal indicates that stakeholders of education particularly higher education have at times promptly and appropriately responded to the challenges emerging suddenly in the country with a sense of responsibility and urgency.
All hope the same will be replicated this time and the youths punched today by tensions will find relief. A new era could emerge out of the confusion and strains inflicted by the COVID-19.