Published: 27th October 2020
Today, online education is the norm. One year ago, a lone Kerala student fought her college for the right to use the internet
In September 2019, the High Court had ruled in favour of a student Faheema Shirin, who was expelled from her college hostel for using a mobile phone
Sitting in a corner of her house, 20-year-old Faheema Shirin attends her lectures online. The COVID curve in Kerala hasn't gone down yet, the colleges are shut and like every other student, the switch from offline to online lectures was quite abrupt for her. However, her father Haksar R K says that the shift was seamless for his daughter — who has been using the internet since her childhood.
The authorities of Sree Narayana Guru College, Chelannur, where she studies, may not have imagined a situation like this in the past. Last year, a then II year BA Literature student, Faheema was expelled from her college hostel for using her mobile phone inside her room, against the hostel ruled. She had challenged this in the Kerala High Court, leading to a landmark judgment which said that the right to access the internet is a fundamental right under the right to privacy. Following the same, the students in all hostels in the state were permitted to use their smartphones.
A year and a month have passed since the court had ruled in Faheema's favour. The world has changed quite a bit. Almost everyone is dependent on gadgets for education, right from preschoolers. Faheema continued to use her mobile phone in the hostel until the educational institutes in Kerala were closed in March, owing to COVID.
Haksar, who supported his daughter's cause from the beginning, believes that the judgment is more relevant in 2020 than it was in 2019. "Students should have been taught to use technology in a responsible manner much earlier, rather than depending on it abruptly during a crisis," he says. He adds that educational institutions haven't adopted the right strategies to make online education effective. "We are merely teaching the same offline lessons online here. It isn't designed to suit online learning. In fact, there is no way for expressing an opinion," he adds.
Haksar says that the college where Faheema studies was initially quite hesitant about conducting their classes online. "But they had no other option. The government itself insisted on online education," he says. "The ones who opposed the use of gadgets in the past are now panelists in webinars," he laughs.
At the same time, he notes that a majority of parents of college students and teachers were not in accord with the judgment in 2019. "We never tried to inculcate a habit of responsible usage of technology among children. As a result, today, the children are forced to learn it all themselves. This is a failure of the system and policy," Haksar says.
He added that since the proclamation of the judgment, at least 200 students from various colleges have contacted the father-daughter duo, thanking them for the initiative. "The colleges in Kerala now let their students use their mobile phones in the hostels. But this isn't the case in many other states," he says.