Is “E-Learning” unimaginable and impossible for Sri Lankan School Children?
With the rise of the global pandemic, we have witnessed many schools in Sri Lanka being closed letting children stay home all day, watching TV alone. While their parents are busy at work or attending to home chores, less attention is given to these kids. This has resulted in many negative outcomes creating stress, depression or even may be dysfunctions in their behaviors and normal routines.
Sri Lanka being one of the developing countries still lacks in providing equal access and facilities to children of all ages. With the pandemic we’ve observed a tendency of those children live in urban areas such as Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara, Kandy, Galle to name a few have easy access to online education or e-learning curriculum whereas children from suburbs and semi-suburbs have no access to these new methods. There’s a huge inequality in the current education system. For many children whose schools are closed due to COVID19, there is no such thing as remote learning. A large majority of households have no capacity to have access to technological resources. Many schools have no libraries, computer labs, funds to maintain such infrastructure. Over the past months, though measures have been implemented by the Sri Lankan Government to improve the quality of education while facilitating schools with new learning methods, less has been established and practical solutions are yet to be introduced.
As of this writing, teachers are being advised to report to schools two-three days per week and provide lessons to children in a safe environment which is not feasible at all levels. The current situation seems to be volatile and disturbing with sudden lockdowns resulting in many parents avoiding sending their children to school. Although much effort has been taken by the Government of Sri Lanka, it still fails to ensure a safe environment for children with the current pandemic situation.
The results of children being alone at home and becoming uneducated have created a negative atmosphere during the past months. In most cases, where parents had no time to spend with their children, they ended up being so isolated, triggered, uncontrollable, upset than a happy child. Their food patterns have turned to an unhealthy diet giving rise to more vulnerable situations. While there are children who would get the maximum support and guidance from their parents to study from home we shall not forget the many unheard voices in Sri Lanka who need a tower of strength, encouragement and advocacy. This conundrum has prevented children’s developmental milestones as well as abilities of thinking, reading books, drawing, writing as well as listening skills.
The way forward, parents will have a critical role as a best friend toward their children’s needs. Every parent should make time to listen and take into account their children’s feelings. In terms of E-Learning, the Government of Sri Lanka should provide adequate equipment to the schools island wide. At the grass-root level, before they open the schools – training, mentoring, exam preparation guidelines as well as safety precautions programs should be properly arranged to the teachers. In terms of G.C.E. O/L and A/L students virtual sessions on the impact of COVID, how to be better prepared more from a mental wellbeing angle, if they are under quarantine how they have to face the exam, how to achieve their test scores with this stressful environment, how to manage anxiety due to pandemic has to be discussed. As a nation, we urgently need to reimagine education to ensure every child is connected to the internet and has access to world-class digital learning solutions. However, all these quick and easy solutions will not work at once at all levels in Sri Lanka, hence school or community based solutions must also be brought to discussion. Together, we can help children leapfrog to a brighter future.