– Gagandeep Kaur
With the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, physical distancing seemed to be the only measure working in favour of humanity, against all odds. This distancing has led to schools being shut down indefinitely, thus, affecting the mental health of our precious warriors of the future. With the increase in cases of stress, anxiety, impatience, irritability and depression amongst children during these times, the gravity of the problem is now a matter of concern as their physical, as well as emotional health, is being hampered.
A mountain of troubling data about rising mental health problems has made the health advocates worried about the need for additional support for the struggling students along with continuing the battle against Coronavirus. It is beyond doubt that the student community is suffering the most and this fact is almost being ignored amongst the huge financial crisis that the country is going through.
The challenges that the students are facing are innumerable. The first being their inability to move out of their homes in accordance with their own wishes. With no opportunity to get involved in games, sports and any other kind of interaction with their friends at school or anywhere else, the students are becoming lethargic and non-social. This may also affect their personality in a negative manner in the long run. These couch potatoes now wake up just five minutes prior to their morning online sessions and face their screens with closed eyes and brains thus, affecting their grasping power and memory retention.
The school working hours which usually were 7-8 hours a day prior to the pandemic have now been doubled wherein the students are sometimes overburdened with assignments and projects are given by various subject teachers, who in turn are answerable to the school authorities for the completion of the syllabus in the best possible manner even in the absence of a normal physical classroom. At times, when the students fail to meet the deadlines laid by the teachers because of network issues, failure of the gadgets they are working on or any other glitches, they are scolded for the same without any mistake of theirs. Even amongst those who have been using gadgets for long, the knowledge of dealing with software glitches and hardware issues is not very common.
The confidence of students is devastated because of the typos or bad spellings owing to the autocorrect pre-installed in their gadgets, which not only eats up their marks during the evaluation process but also would lead them to have a poor vocabulary bank and pathetic spellings in their future.
The erratic schedules of classes have killed the family time of students which is being compromised to favour studies. There is actually no ‘Me time’ left for these young buds which makes them vulnerable enough to suffer from various health issues ranging physical and mental fatigue, eyesight defects, raised weight, etc. Even the safety of children is at risk because more involvement with these gadgets means more vulnerability to hack and more exposure to addiction to self-harming games.
With even the private tuition classes running online the problem is further aggravated as after spending the entire day in front of the glaring screen when children want to relax by playing some online games, enjoying online streaming platforms, etc. the parents remind them about the myriad harms of excessive use of gadgets thereby leaving them with no option to relax or cool themselves after a spending hectic day.
The parents of younger children of classes Nursery to III are having a tough time as they are struggling hard to manage timings between their home chores and the online sessions of their little kids who do not know how to operate gadgets and find it tough to stay glued to screens for long hours.
COVID has proved to be even more challenging for the students from lower-income strata of the society as they don’t have access to laptops to take online classes. But the challenge of spending money on a laptop isn’t the only problem for them. A reliable broadband connection paid software packages and a quiet place to take these sessions are also required. Even when the parents of these children manage to arrange it all, the gadget has to be shared amongst all the siblings making them compromise with a few lectures here and there running simultaneously. This leads to a lack of understanding of the content taught by teachers in the absence of physical classrooms and one to one interaction between them both.
The recent upsurge in the number of suicide cases in the country amongst youngsters is enough to testify that the stress that this pandemic has built-in them is unbearable and a few of them are failing to cope with the pressure of the current circumstance. It’s high time and the alarm bells are ringing for the higher authorities to come into action and appoint more health counsellors to take care of the youngest victims of Coronavirus.