The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has introduced us to many ‘new-realities,’ some of which may remain permanent as well in our lives even after the recovery. During the early months of the crisis, countries across the world had to undergo various strict social measures to contain the spread of coronavirus. Amid these measures, there was an initiation and mass adaptation of virtual meetings, popularised as – webinars.
Certainly, professionals from all aspects could not simply shut down all their activities due to being distant, which would otherwise result in an economic slump. And since our societies have interdependent chains of functionality, the collapse of one eventually would fall upon another. Education is an integral part of our society, which has been severely hampered with the rise of the pandemic. Students and teachers have not been able to attend their classes or other rituals on campus to continue with their regular academic sessions. Bangladesh government declared a complete closure of all educational institutes on March 16, 2020. The closure window later went on to be extended multiple times and is still functional with school premises left empty of students, parents and teachers.
However, the school authorities had to look for alternative measures to ensure the minimum possible damage to the children’s education and growth. Webinars soon started to be organised under various online platforms to connect the students and the teachers using virtual technology. Soon the parents and the teachers realised the potential of education-from-home through proper virtual webinars interaction. The government also quickly took action to organise digital classrooms for students stuck in their homes. The pandemic posed a severe threat to the formal arrangements of large-scale examinations; for example – the 2020 HSC examinations have recently been cancelled by the Ministry of Education. Yet, the exchange of ideas and sharing of knowledge have started to flow again with webinars organised by sincere educational institutes for both their students and parents.
International School Dhaka (ISD) and Delhi Public School Dhaka (DPS STS) are two such institutes patronising and promoting children’s inner-illumination beyond textbook syllabuses. Through collaborative efforts, ISD and DPS began organising webinars at regular intervals to make sure that their students, guardians, and staff do not feel disconnected and get to socialise and exchange their views to make the most out of the difficult times. From mid-July till now, there have been about ten webinars organised by the schools, which shed light on various aspects of life, such as – education, health, finance, family values, and safety for children. Renowned professionals from different sectors joined the sessions as keynote speakers to share their expertise and advice on specific topics to the attendees. Doctors, corporate officers, entrepreneurs, and other motivational speakers helped the students and guardians to attain newer perspectives of living. Alya Fardous Azad (Evercare Hospital), Khairul Basher (Grameenphone), Don Sumdany (Don Sumdany Facilitation & Consultancy), Naveed, and Zara Mahbub were, among, the keynote speakers of the webinars.
COVID-19 has caused us severe financial disruptions, with thousands losing their jobs and seeking desperately for a recovery. The shock has affected our national GDP, decelerating our progress for a better nation. But the children are the leaders of tomorrow, and emphasis needs to put on safeguarding their health and education amidst the pandemic to ensure our days ahead are brighter. There are still many issues prevailing that hamper a foolproof digital adaptation of education; for example – internet prices are still higher in Bangladesh with unstable bandwidths. Many guardians are yet to become handy with technological applications. For institutes in the periphery, even having a sound attendance in their virtual sessions is a challenge. But to look at the positive side – webinars have saved our times otherwise wasted in traffic, eliminated the expenses related to transportation, outside food, and other necessary maintenance expenses alongside minimising the risk of coronavirus spreading through social gatherings.
The initiatives, taken by ISD and DPS STS, are praiseworthy and timely, considering its impact on the attendees. Education is a two-way process where participants need to be actively contributing. When schools start to arrange such webinars despite all the social crisis, it creates a positive notion to impress the students and guardians, and also encourages them to play their parts effectively as well. This also has the potential to create a domino effect, through which other schools may also start exploring their capabilities and ultimately ensure the best outcome for the future leaders.