COVID-19 refuses to become old news. Just when we thought things were settling down, the second wave hit us. And now, as we prepare for the inevitable third wave, each day a new dimension of the pandemic unveils its ugly face. Oxygen shortage, ventilator shortage, inexplicably expensive medicines, hospital beds only for those with friends in high places, black fungus and long-lasting impact on the health of those who manage to survive.
And these are all things of the past. We still have at least a couple more waves to go!
Impact of Covid on Education System
A gut-clenching impact that seems to have escaped our notice in this mayhem is the impact it will have on our children. As per UNICEF, schools for more than 168 million children have remained closed for a complete year globally. This means more than 168 million children have missed more than an entire academic session and will be missing more as the situation worsens.
Students in Online Classes
Students who woke up at six in the morning to get ready and go to school now wake up at 10 am, turn on their laptops, mute their mikes and turn off their cameras. Day after day, as their teachers go through a laboriously created teaching plan, students eat, freshen up, or just fall back asleep, with the class still in session. Sometimes, it is not even the child but rather the parent attending the classes; aiming to teach it to their kid later.
Problems in Going Back to the School
While it works for now, how are these children going to get back to the grind in a post-pandemic world? How can they be expected to adjust to a timetable that schedules their sleep, play, study, and eating habits?
• The schooling system is tough and much stricter as compared to parents who are already burdened with health issues, employment insecurity, hectic work-from-home schedules, and full-time care for children.
• Schools mainly aim at enforcing discipline, an aspect that not all parents can be expected to keep up with in such circumstances. So parents have less time to deal with children and children get a lot less attention than they would if they were going to school.
• A student’s life is so heavily dependent on technology that he/she no longer knows how to maintain notebooks. As a result, when schools reopen, children won’t be able to submit work on time, won’t know how to jot down notes during lectures, and won’t be able to answer questions that their teacher asks during classes.
• Even tests are mere MCQs, which can barely depict conceptual clarity. Written tests are at best open book tests, which don’t hold a candle to traditional tests in motivating students to become better learners. Unlike during online classes, they can no longer look up a question on the internet and answer.
The reasons behind the problems
Two reasons could cause this:
1. Lack of proper schedule: Despite all efforts of parents and schools, the children have lost their schedule. They are not having proper sleeping, Waking up, study or even playing schedule. Life has gone into lethargy.
2. Loss of Social Skills: The children have lost their social skills. The skills to interact with teachers and elders and also the skills to make and cooperate with friends. They will either be too quiet or have too much energy, which is disruptive to a healthy classroom environment. Thus, the burden will then fall on the teacher to balance each student’s vastly contradicting emotional needs.
3. Wide gap: What is worse is that students now will be at least a year or two further ahead than where they were before the pandemic. They will have new teachers, making it harder for them to form an emotional connection with them. For younger children, the unfamiliar face and unfamiliar new class environment will make leaving their homes and their parents even harder. The younger students who were supposed to start kindergarten have finished it and moved on to the next class without learning the etiquette of sitting in a class, listening to a teacher’s instructions, or making friends.
4. Weak concepts: A student in second grade will be skipping to fourth grade, most likely have forgotten what he studied in second grade too. He is now distant from his friends, addicted to digital devices, and has a whole new syllabus to deal with. If he was not actively listening during online classes, he will have a weak base and will be forced to sandwich two to three years of education in one. As these are formative years and require a lot of patience and time, it becomes a herculean task to deal with an entire generation facing this problem.
5. Uncertainties in Career: Teenagers who were supposed to pick streams and start mapping their careers have no means of guidance, as the calamity is unprecedented. The dates of exams are uncertain and the honesty in online exams is also questionable in many ways.
6. Emotional Setback: Many children have lost their parents or grandparents and many relatives. This has caused a lot of mental trauma to the children. They are filled with fear and insecurities. Many parents are struggling with the pressures of getting laid off from work and so children also feel the pressure. This has brought mental chaos for all the children.
Traumatic situations for Poor children
This will be especially worse for children from rural households, who are on the receiving end of the digital divide. Children who have to go to bed hungry, are victims of malnutrition, stunting, and anemia (to name a few), are expected to have an internet connection and a smart device. And if there is more than one child in a household, there need to be just as many smart devices as classes happen simultaneously.
They will either never sit in a classroom again or find themselves much further back from their more privileged counterparts. The intellectual divide will make them susceptible to dropping out, perhaps much sooner than the average time of high school. These children have been engrossed in lending a hand to the household or being forced to go out and earn due to the pandemic.
Rural children were already suffering from severe educational issues like lack of teacher turnout. This makes them much weaker in terms of literacy than their urban counterparts. Yet, they are expected to be well versed in operating a device that they cannot afford in the first place. Plus, if the children or their parents fall sick, they won’t attend classes even if they have the devices.
Education is a luxury to them, and they find themselves pushed so far away from it that many don’t even remember the names of their school, the class they studied in, or the teachers that taught them.
What’s the solution to the problem of students
• Rehabilitation: The only solution shortly appears to be rehabilitation. Although that is not going to be easy. But the student needs to be rehabilitated by proper counseling about school.
• Mental Preparation: You need to make the child mentally prepared to go to school. Tell them how the school would bring all the friends together, and they can have a lot of fun together. Make him remember his best times at school.
• Scheduling: Parents can make a schedule almost according to the school. This will help children have a proper schedule as per the school, which should become a habit.
• Motivate: Let them be excited to go to school where they can engage in so many co-curricular activities. They can participate in sports, music, art, and so many other activities. They can be their friends and enjoy their company.
• Don’ts: Never tell threaten them regarding school. Don’t say that now you will improve only when the schools will start. They will become defensive regarding going to school. There are cases where children are even crying going to school.
Everybody can understand the gravity of the situation that has arisen due to the Covid pandemic. This is an era where education has suffered the most. Now it’s time to prepare our children for their schools and formally and systematically resume their education. This would require preparation both from the end of school and also from the parents. Let’s work together to bring our derailed children on their track so that they can have a bright future.