Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the education sector in Pakistan has undergone a massive transformation. With schools and universities closed to prevent the spread of the virus, students and teachers have had to adapt to a new way of learning: online classes. This transition was a significant challenge for many students and teachers due to the lack of access to reliable internet connections and necessary technological devices, as well as the difficulty of maintaining student engagement and interaction.
However, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan established the Online Learning Readiness Program in April 2020, providing support to universities in transitioning to online education. The program aimed to provide technical assistance, training, and funding to develop online learning platforms and infrastructure. This initiative led to significant growth in online education, with more than 100 universities in the country offering online degree programs, covering a wide range of disciplines.
The government of Pakistan launched several initiatives to address the challenges faced by students from low-income families due to school closures. The Ehsaas Education Stipend program provides financial assistance to eligible students with a monthly stipend of Rs. 2,000.
However, the prolonged closure of schools disrupted the education of millions of students in Pakistan, with more than 50% of them lacking access to distance learning opportunities. The pandemic widened existing education inequalities, with students from rural and remote areas, girls, and those with disabilities being disproportionately affected. The closure of schools also impacted the mental health and well-being of students, with many experiencing stress, anxiety, and social isolation.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, over 50 million students were affected by school closures in Pakistan. A survey conducted by Gallup Pakistan in collaboration with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute found that 79% of parents in Pakistan were concerned about the impact of school closures on their children’s education. The TeleSchool initiative launched by the government reached more than 10 million students across Pakistan, providing remote learning opportunities during school closures.
These statistics highlight the need for increased investment in education infrastructure and technology to ensure equitable access to quality education for all students, especially during times of crisis. The pandemic has brought significant changes to Pakistan’s education sector, with online learning becoming the new normal. However, the education system still faces significant challenges in ensuring equitable access to quality education for all students.
The writer is the student of BS Journalism Studies, 8 Semest at University of the Punjab, Lahore. He can be reached at [email protected]