As in real-life class, online some students did better than others.
It made me happy to find out that one student got a scholarship to a good university, but I also kept asking myself about the others. I had doubts. Education, I started to think, was a process of exclusion. There are a few students who get their internet connection right, know how to fill out all the applications forms, are sharp at writing personal statements. But what about all the others?
Should the world really be run by the kids who have reliable internet access? I saw pictures of students in remote areas trekking up mountains with laptops, hoping to catch an internet signal so they could attend their classes. How were they going to compete with someone sitting in their own bedroom with their own electricity generator?
Sometimes I felt I, too, was wielding a mulberry branch, thrashing at the unknown.
Today, as I prepare for another semester online, I am acutely aware that education is a privilege. In my case, that privilege involves attending my six-year-old’s online classes: A parent has to be with every child, so as of last month I have been attending Class 1, starting my education all over again.
My son’s teachers seem to know what they are doing. They make sure to address everyone by name. They are very, very patient. They realize that some people might have a slow internet connection. Maybe some students are distracted; maybe they need to go to the loo. Maybe there’s a competitive parent in the room giving them useless prompts.
I am in awe of my son’s teachers and their enthusiasm. Some have had their pay cut because of the pandemic.
One day, my son’s teacher announced that she’d be gone for a minute, to go from our virtual classroom to another. As soon as she left, there was pandemonium: Everyone raised hell, shouted each other’s names, remembered old feuds. Sometimes teacher should leave the kids alone: Students, locked up at home, sometimes need to let go and scream.
My teaching semester starts next week, and I hope I’ll be able to use some of the lessons from my son’s class.
Mohammed Hanif (@mohammedhanif) is the author of the novels “A Case of Exploding Mangoes,” “Our Lady of Alice Bhatti” and “Red Birds.” He is a contributing opinion writer.
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