Sunday, July 25, 2021

Technology’s limits

At the concept, practice and direction “education” has taken today fears of students missing out on online lessons are justified. But online education is an exclusive privilege inaccessible to children on the wrong side of the digital divide. Then again, online accessibility is dependent on numerous factors ~ even those with smartphones, laptops, PCs, etc., are often off-lined due to power and network issues even in urban areas in Nagaland. This issue has been repeatedly red-flagged by the Eastern Naga Students’ Federation (ENSF), the All Nagaland Colleges Students’ Union (ANCSU), Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) and several other student bodies but the question is: why does this problem persist? And how could this problem be addressed and redressed? These questions are again related to uninterrupted and quality power supply, service providers’ struggles with a rough topography like ours, land ownership issues and disturbances allegedly by numerous groups including village authorities, youth bodies, etc., for setting up infrastructural structures in their ‘jurisdiction’, other poor or non-existence infrastructure, Nature’s vagaries, etc. While the Government can do nothing about Nature’s vagaries, but obviously it needs to address and redress man-made issues. But why its seeming inertia is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, our children’s Right to Education is violated. Now we can only look up to the Courts to take sou moto notice of this Right’s violation and direct the concerned authorities to act post haste. In the interregnum, it will serve our society and Sate well if we revisit the concept, practice and direction of education of the past few decades in our State. Let’s not get into what education is meant to be. For now, let’s just focus on our perceptions and perspectives of education. Clearly to most of us education generally means academic schooling with the concomitant admissions to a “good” school/college, top marks/grades in examinations, etc., to obtain lucrative careers that would ‘ensure’ good money, fame and status, ~ all of which are assumed to ensure our children’s “secure” future ~ believed to be life’s sole purpose and destiny. Nothing could be more effective to dis-educate our children and disable them from becoming fully enlightened, empowered, ethical, effective and worthy human beings. Nothing can discourage them more from living life to its fullest potentials. Unfortunately, dis-educating and disabling children are inherent in the education policies of all political agenda ~ however well-couched in the most persuasively “progressive” language. Consequently, years of regimental schooling deters young minds from independent thinking, from discovery and from exploring the endless possibilities life offers and are available all around them. For all governments, control of education is crucial ~ and the type of these controls define governments and underscore their stance and position vis-à-vis the market. To be sure, disciplined academic schooling is crucial to genuine education ~ in fact, an integral part of it ~ but not the type of education that is confined to lectures, tuitions, good marks/grades aimed at acquiring lucrative employment in the market that demands conformity. No human being is born to be a cog in the wheels of the market. Now, infrastructure is not the only cause of the digital divide ~ that this and other divides are created and exist is the issue ~ which any genuinely educated would understand. Since last year, the pandemic has disrupted formal academic education and we worry our children are losing academic years. But consider the generations of children who have lost years of schooling due to wars, natural calamities and human follies, and of children who have never been to school due to poverty, deprivations and discriminations. And yet they become nation-builders in their own ways at their own pace. So, think about non-academic education in the form of life-lessons our children are being exposed to and experiencing first hand ~ especially children from privileged sections, who are probably facing them for the first time. More than a stage, the world is an enormous classroom that teaches everything a person needs to learn. Although in the most horrific of ways, the pandemic is also teaching children the sacredness of human life and all forms of life ~ as also what really matters, or rather what should really matter, for human society to live and thrive. If we don’t and can’t introduce children to these life-lessons in the world classroom now then we fail them irreparably and it’s not just network failures and the fault of service providers. Technology has a role in human life but a limited one.