November 2020 \ Diaspora News \ COVER STORY—INDIA AND AFGHANISTAN

On 25 April, 2020, a special Ariana Afghan Airlines ...

By Nayan Chakravarty

On 25 April, 2020, a special Ariana Afghan Airlines flight took off from the IGI Airport New Delhi, taking back home hundreds of Afghan nationals stranded in Indian due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Around 40 of these passengers were students from a reputed private University, in the National Capital Region (NCR), which has an annual enrolment of around 2000 students from Afghanistan. Taking into account other eminent educational institutions which accept foreign students into various courses, the number of Afghan students in India is well over 17,000. This includes students who take advantage of more than 1000 scholarships, specifically for Afghan students, provided by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) every year.

Covid-19 has disrupted normal operations in many sectors; the field of education has been hit hardest when it comes to core functioning. After months of pre-emptive closure, educational institutions are opening up campuses in a phased manner. However, international travel is still operating under huge constraints of air-bubble agreements, thus halting the hope of returning back to campus for full-time international students. With uncertainty still looming large, courses that can be offered completely online, or those that can transition from being classroom-based, are the only options, apparently, in this current anomalous academic year.

While this might be a viable alternative for fresh enrolments, there could be some challenges for students currently in the middle of a multi-semester/year course. First, mechanisms for administering online courses and assessment commensurate with this form of course delivery, if not in place, would have to be rapidly developed. Second, the recognition of an online degree, in-lieu of the standard award subsequent to successful fulfillment of course criteria, would need to be communicated to institutions and organizations, especially in Government bodies, that have been offering placements to students on the basis of these degrees. If the degree being pursued was originally offered with requirements for in-campus presence, a system of waiver of in-person attendance requirement would need to be designed for specific cases – only international students will need to be considered. A full-scale or partially surrogate online learning management system, at the least, is required for Educational institutions in India to fully support their student base.

Tags: Afghanistan