RIGHTS group ask government to bridge digital divide in the light of the rapid shift to digital services during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The telecom industry, rights groups as well as students have urged the government to ensure access to quality and affordable Internet for all.

For the past week, students from tribal areas and Balochistan have voiced their concerns over lack of access to Internet during the Covid-19 outbreak under various Twitter trends such as #Enable3G4GInExFATA and #SuspendOnlineClasses.

Hundreds of students and faculty members in different varsities have also lodged complaints on the prime minister's portal with regard to online teaching system's quality of instruction, digital readiness of the instructor and poor Internet connectivity.

''Almost 50+ students of the University of Management and Technology [UMT] in Lahore are from Chitral and all of them are facing Internet issue.

''Most of us have not attended a single online class because there are no mobile signals in the area,'' Fahad Ahmad, a student with multiple distinctions, told Dawn newspaper.

''We have to travel for two or three hours on a daily basis just to attend class. Students are spending 500 rupees or even more just for petrol for their vehicle. If we estimate this amount it almost equals to our university fee,'' he said.

Students shared multiple video clips to show how they were attending online classes while sitting on a roadside or an open space to get strong mobile.

The problem is not limited to access but also affordability of Internet.

''In university, due to the availability of free Wi-Fi and computers it is easy for me to complete my assignments. I use an internet package of Rs 6 per day with 500 MBs for social media and 50MBs of data for browsing. This is not enough to attend online classes,'' said Sheeraz, a student of DOW University.

In a notification issued on Monday, the Higher Education Commission [HEC] asked all varsities that were not ready for online instructions on account of different limitations [technological, technical or spatial] to plan, acquire train, and equip themselves to execute online teachings from June 1.

The HEC noted that around 30 per cent of all complaints were related poor connectivity issues which hampered participation in online classes.

This was especially the case with students living in remote areas, particularly the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas [Fata], parts of Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan [GB] and Azad Jammu and Kashmir [AJK].

In a tweet, Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood said a TV channel would be launched in early April with lessons for school children.

The honor and serving of the state-of-affairs in Education and the Developing World, continues. The World Students Society thanks author, Ramsha Jehangir.


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