Chitral Today
Latest Updates and Breaking News

Impacts of internet unavailability on students of Arkari

Muhammad Saleem Khan

Arkari is a small isolated valley and happens to be one of the most inaccessible mountainous
regions located at the verge of Pakistan-Afghan border. With a population of 4,600 and a long distance from the main Chitral city, this valley has been facing hosts of societal issues, including
lack of basic facilities such as education, healthcare, transport, communication etc. The unavailability of internet left immense impacts on the students of the remote area in the wake of the prolonged closure of educational institutions without any alternatives.

It has been more than eight months since the students got detached from their classrooms’ environment. Amid this situation, lack of internet facility coupled with extremely poor technological infrastructure derailed the various learning activities.

Given the context of the pandemic, availability of internet plays a significant role in creating an environment in which people, especially students, can continue their activities in a very easy and creative way. On the contrary, the absence of the particular technology further intensifies the myriad of social issues especially those which are completely dependent on virtual connectivity i.e. educational activities.

Arkari is one of the few remotest areas of the country where residents still don’t have internet facility while the level of technological engagement is such that most of the young students don’t know how to turn a computer on. In addition, both parents and teachers lack basic skills of modern technologies which are indispensable in facing difficult situation, like the present crisis, including technological awareness, proficiency in English language, familiarity with digital devices etc.

In the given valley, education is still in the low level of formative stage. There are three main educational institutions which facilitate (up to intermediate level) the local students via affiliation with the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education Peshawar: government, private and few community based schools. The issue of poverty prevents these working educational institutions to have quality faculty, proper infrastructure and other required facilities concerning the modern education system.The number of students who goes for higher education is quite low particularly the ratio of female students is extremely low.

Given this situation, only those students join universities who either get full scholarship or secure some sort of financial support. When these students returned back to home, after campuses’ closure due to COVID-19, they not only lost internet connection but also faced/facing immense challenges regarding the much needed electronic devices i.e. laptop, smartphone etc. If a student from the particular area wants to go to the main Chitral city, s/he has to face ample of challenges including the issue of transport and the availability of required resources.

In rural areas like Arkari, given the absence of virtual practices, the traditional social setup adds extra burden on teenager particularly on female students. One of the journalists rightly points out that “during the lockdown, many families were not calling in their domestic staff. This meant that the burden of housework has fallen primarily on the female students”. Likewise, many parents lost their jobs since the inception of COVID-19 as most of them are seasonal (low-wage) workers in cities. It is because of this reason that students from the poor families found themselves in a helpless situation. It is important to note that the above mentioned problem of financial hurdle is inextricably linked with multiple interrelated factors such as geographical barrier, lack of government’s support, issue of women’s empowerment, access to modern resources etc.

The given issue is not as simple as it seems to be, rather it’s quite complex and involves web of contradictory relations. The ultimate point, however, is first to understand the overall phenomena then to struggle in order to bring the required change accordingly vis-à-vis transition from traditional to modern sphere. For the particular understanding, Karl Marx’s dialectic method of analysis would one of the best options. This method rejects reductionist or complete deterministic approach, instead provides a complex over-deterministic and non-reductionist framework which goes beyond the notion of ‘mechanical materialism’ i.e. material aspect of life as an essential determinant. In this case, for example, the real world’s activities are not the determinant factors rather there’s a dialectic relationship between real and virtual world vis-à-vis one influence another and vice versa.  Same dialectic relationships exist between rural and urban, crisis and problems’ awareness, modernity and tradition and so on.  According to this method, all technology related social aspects are fitting together in such a way that there is a constant interaction among them. Interestingly, this pandemic exposed various contradictions concerning the given multidimensional societal relations i.e. digital divide, inefficient learning system, role of financial sphere in shaping intellectual terrain etc.

To be more precise, the situation of the particular area shows that the multifaceted impacts of COVID-19 on the education sector are directly linked with the availability of modern technologies like internet, digital facilities etc. There is an immediate need of comprehensive strategy to provide internet access to the marginalized rural communities like the given specific case.

The various relevant researches’ findings show that the process of digitalization is something very important in dealing with crisis like the current pandemic but absence of the same process is equally disastrous specifically for the illiterate and traditional societies. In the particular mountainous region, although quality of life has significantly improved in the last few decades, the upcoming years would be highly challenging as people are in the process of abrupt transition from simple to complex digitalized world with insufficient resources.In the era of rapid technological advancement, valley Arkari represents many paradoxical phenomena regarding the importance of internet (un)availability provided the ongoing pandemic situation.

You might also like

Leave a comment

error: Content is protected!!