PANDEMIC AND SCHOOL CLOSURE CAUSES MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES IN CHILDREN: PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports headed by Vinay Sahasrabuddhe presented a report in parliament “Plans for Bridging the Learning Gaps” which recommend vaccination program prominent for all students, teachers, and other staff. The parliamentary committee highlighted that the COVID19 pandemic and long school closure caused a regression (forgetting) in learning, which affected the mental health of children and also impacted their communication skills and social life. Even the last-minute postponement of examinations and news about the impact of the pandemic affected the physical and mental well-being of the children. Committee also added that the school closure disrupted the social structure of the family negatively, causes early child marriage and dragging children into household chores. The committee said the non-availability of digital devices and technical infrastructure with students and teachers, low connectivity issues, limited awareness about online education, lack of adaptation to virtual learning are key problematic issues. In a survey by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) 85 percent are studying online while the rest are being reached personally. Other students are receiving study materials from their teachers if they face any difficulty. According to the survey by Azim Bhai Premji University students are forgetting what they studied in their previous classes. This forgetting will impact conceptual understanding and future learning. Another study by Kendriya Vidyalaya found that some teachers, parents, and students are considering distance learning difficult while some are experiencing joy in online learning.
What are the precautions we need before opening up schools? What could be a possible solution to deal with mental health issues in children? What are the steps needed to ensure smooth opening up of schools and getting desirable outcomes? The education committee recommended a vaccine program prominent for all students, teachers, and other staff to let schools start functioning normally, It also suggests having classes on alternative days maintaining physical distancing and mandatory wearing of masks, An intensive courses to meet the gap for learning loss suggesting continuous assessment, A blended method of online and offline education should be adopted, Extra Classes, personalized coaching, Formative assessment, Proper guidelines for practical and project work, Comparison of reading writing and arithmetic skills with pre-Covid times, Provide children with study material and nutritional food and a comparative study on the impact of distance education during the pandemic. Professor Anita Rampal, former dean of the faculty of education of Delhi University draws attention to the importance of girl education which has been affected badly in the pandemic, she said that girl education is prominent in our society. An educated girl has confidence and the ability to resist early marriage and even domestic violence. The digital divide is a prominent issue facing the country presently. About 70% of the country does not have access to internet connectivity and the available quality of connectivity is poor. The need to of the hour is to limit the digital divide around the country and make internet connectivity infrastructure around the nation to have better learning outcomes. We need to ensure how much children are mentally prepared for offline schooling now as of today they were in the comfort zone of their homes and school opening could be unpleasant for some. As the data suggests around 320 million children in India have not stepped into classrooms for more than a year. We can apply some psychological principles like Elaborative rehearsal, mental imaginary, deep Processing, Understanding the context, Use of mnemonics, visualizing concepts, Revision Scheduling through flashcards apps, Active learning, Taking breaks between the session, etc. to students especially the ones who forgets what they study in their previous classes. Pandemic affected nearly 24 crore school children so Unconditional Positive Regards and feeling to empathy should be our approach in dealing with school children. Dealing with exam postponement anxiety and distressful news on social media platforms about the coming delta waves should be addressed soon. Children should be encouraged to start focusing on positives and keep on acquiring new skills for their betterment. Students require holistic Physical, Mental, Emotional and Social support from all the stakeholders.