COVID-19: Boon Or Curse for Students?

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Reports suggest that children are going through lot of negative sentiments. Irritation, boredom, laziness, worthlessness, depression, etc are showing up in more and more children leading to unruly behaviour and fights.

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Everyone loves holidays. Children love them more. And since March 23, children have perhaps had the longest holiday of their lives. They should be thanking Covid 19 for this. But they are not.

Says Riya, a Class X student, “Everything should be done within a reasonable limit. This break has crossed all limits and we have started feeling confined and restricted. Initially, it was fun, but now it is getting a little too long.”

And she is not alone in feeling so. Almost all children now want to get back to their regular school routine.

More than anything it is the energy that children bring to homes that is missing. The excitement in their voice is gone.

There is not much physical activity. The small challenges that come with the school life have stopped. There are no fights with friends, no complaints of teachers and other non-cooperating friends. They are not enjoying the period, it is evident.  

Says a parent Seema, “My daughter used to come home excited and share so much about school every day. Now, there is a sort of vacuum. Children look good when they are happy, energetically running around.

It is not a good feeling to see them lazily lying around all the time with a low energy body.”
No one debate that.

During holidays children normally travel to new places, visit grandparents and other relatives, learn new skills, join hobby classes, etc.

However, for now, it is limited to what can one do from home. Sanjeevani, a class IX student, is learning to play piano, guitar and flute. She likes to paint. She is also learning new dance moves every day from internet.

However, for most children like her, academics is the fulcrum around which all these activities revolve.

“These are part time activities that can be used to reenergise yourself and can be done for a limited time, except if you are planning career in any of these,” she says.

For those living in villages, children don’t even have this option. And then the poor network problem. Its tough.

Sanju lives in Mitathal, a village about 10 kms from the city. He is not enjoying the time. Though he has a smart phone at home, but there is poor network.

He says, “It is as good as not attending a class. Besides this, there is literally no work to do. We are fooling around all the time. It is boring”
Reports suggest that children are going through lot of negative sentiments. Irritation, boredom, laziness, worthlessness, depression, etc are showing up in more and more children leading to unruly behaviour and fights.

Realising the need to keep the children in good mental health, the State Government had suggested schools to provide children access to counsellors.

Ministry of Education, on its part, has launched Manodarpan, a helpline for psychological support for mental health and wellbeing of students during the Covid outbreak and beyond. How many children can reach it and benefit remains the big question?

The scenario is worse and more challenging for children living in rural areas and those coming from the disadvantageous sections of the society. Unable to even be part of the online classes, the contrast of their lives has become more visible to them.

They are more aware of the scarcity in their lives vis-a-vis their friends living in the city and those from the well-off families.

Rajni is a class VIII student studying under the 134a scheme in a private school. “There is only one smart phone in my family, which is with my father. But he carries it to work. My mother has a normal keypad phone.

So, I am not attending online classes.” another aspect is that it’s tougher on girls. Media reports also indicate that many families in the  lower income group are looking at marrying off the girls.

While children feel that opening of schools will give them a much needed breather, parents don’t seem to agree. A couple of surveys about opening schools has brought up mixed response.

While some parents want to wait for the vaccine, others think schools should be opened with due precaution, as the vaccine is going to take time and children are feeling the pressure now.  The government is in a fix and the uncertainty is taking its toll.

Arun Kumar and his wife are working parents. “We have to work to keep the house running. So, when we both are going out, there are good chances that we might carry the virus home despite all precautions. So, what is the point in keeping the schools closed.

Also, for working parents, it is becoming difficult to manage the children,” says Arun. When everything has opened up, the government should seriously look at opening the schools. We are nearing the half way mark of this academic session. How long can we hold this?

Clinical Psychologist Shikha Kasliwal is mother of a school going daughter.

She says, “The time is tough on children. Though online classes are going on its not easy. Children need the environment and the physical feel of a teacher, friends and school. For now, there is a void in their growth.” 

Former member of Child Welfare Committee Dr Aarti agrees. “Online classes cater to only the academic needs of the children. It helps them use only a couple of hours of the day. Children need much more than that.”

More importantly without a routine even adults become restless. So, the children are not really at fault when they want to get into the regular routine, despite the risks involved. And Dr Aarti doesn’t deny the risks involved in doing so.

However, parents like Ashok Sharma, who has two kids, one year wasted is no cost for the safety of the children.

“Children are vulnerable. No amount of precaution can be safe enough. Even if this year is wasted, I don’t mind, as there is enough time for my children to do what they want.”

Do we really wait for the vaccine before we allow our children their freedom? It’s a tough call.

Too much at stake and the Government not willing to take any risk. But one thing is certain, life needs to move on. As parents, we need to know this and perhaps also teach our children the same.
For now, the children can only wait and watch.
And perhaps pray hard!


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