Online Learning Highlights Massive Disparities in Pakistan’s Digital Landscape

With some colleges and universities planning to continue online learning beyond 2021, students and teachers are now looking at over a year of learning from home. Winter break is just around the corner, although most people would not even consider it one since most of 2020 was a study-at-home scenario.

Online remote learning during the COVID-19 lockdown has revealed a huge digital divide in Pakistan, further disadvantaging students and teachers that remain deprived of digital coverage.

In a collaboration between the Ministry of Human Rights and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), evidence-based analysis of human rights implications in response to COVID-19 was conducted. The analytical report identified the marginalized groups of people that do not have access to the government’s relief services. The team responsible for the report collected evidence from all four provinces from reliable sources.

The report indicates that, while the pandemic has highlighted general hardships faced by people, authorities can develop a series of reforms that would eventually ensure human rights protection and other relief packages.

Addressing the current shortcomings in the system will help reinvigorate existing strategies for COVID-19 prevention and post-pandemic recovery, said the report. Further breakdown of existing marginalized groups helped identify some uncalled-for weaknesses in the system.

Challenges of Remote Learning
Online learning during the lockdown in Pakistan has devolved from a budding innovation to an emotional wreckage machine. While the issue of mental health and safety is a serious matter, people’s reluctance to adhere to the digital norm has overshadowed any progress for students and teachers who are either economically left behind or remain deprived of digital coverage.

In terms of remote access to education, students hailing from poor to moderate households, where internet connectivity is a far-off dream, were found most neglected. The report further highlighted that the government’s remote education strategy lacks the required facilities to accommodate people living in remote areas.

Albeit various opportunities during the pandemic have created some dedicated policies in terms of e-commerce and digital accessibility, problems in remote learning will persist if no action is taken.

The report further takes into account some of the best practices from around the world to suggest actionable policy recommendations. For instance, with an increased scope of e-commerce, there is a lot of potential for the labor markets to improve their e-commerce skills. The report suggests focusing on increasing digital accessibility, especially for women and people living in remote areas.

Flourishing a sense of purpose is an important part of wellbeing. The Ministry of Human Rights and UNDP are constantly working to introduce far-reaching adjustments at the national level. Their report requests all provincial governments to initiate reforms at the grass-root level.

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