Every day, a 22-year-old student in a remote tribal village in Pakistan is forced to climb up a mountain, to ensure he has enough internet signal strength to attend online classes. While most students around the world adjusted to remote learning, Saifullah Abbas Afridi and his friends have to think of the basics, like how to access the internet, amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
Afridi is a student of political sciences at the University of Peshawar.
He used to live in Peshawar city while attending the educational facility. But, nowadays, as universities and colleges are closed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country, Afridi is back in his native village.
Like many other villages in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) in Pakistan, his area also lacks an internet connection needed for online classes. So, Afridi and his friends climb a mountain to get access.
“The government has started online classes and we appreciate the step because it thought to continue activities despite the bad situation. But here, in our tribal district, there is no internet,” he said in a June 18 video report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a US-based news broadcast organisation.
“Here I get theories and classes of my political science class via the internet. It is impossible to access the research of academics from Japan, France, or the rest of the world without the internet,” he added.
Afridi considers himself lucky as other tribal district students living far from the mountain do not have the option to go there.
While online classes have proved to be easily accessible for many from the comfort of their homes, for him, they are a hassle. He has reportedly brought together other students like him and protested online classes by launching a petition.
The issue has been highlighted online by others as well.
On May 4, Twitter account @voice_fata, posted a picture of a girl on top of a mountain with the caption: “A girl who has to hike mountains in her village to catch internet signals to attend online classes during lockdown 45 per cent of Pakistanis mostly in tribal areas of Pakistan peoples has no proper communication set up. Even no mobile signals."