As the joy of the school’s reopening just started to pick up among students, the third wave of Covid-19 brought another shutdown. The atmosphere of uncertainty, amid the ongoing pandemic, has affected both children’s learning skills and mental well-being. While some students are appalled at the repeated school closures, others have grown adaptive with online learning and want to continue the same.
Ananth Shetty, an 11th grade student from Bengaluru, was excited last November when schools reopened. This excitement was short-lived, however, as schools were closed again in January due to the alarming rise in Covid-19 cases in the city.
“Having passed class 10 without taking any exams, I was hopeful that class 11 would resume as a normal session at school. The past two months have been a breather from online learning that is uncomfortable and stressful. With schools closing again, I have no hope of ever going to school as carefree as in pre-pandemic times,” Ananth said.
In Delhi, students suffered a major ordeal with recurrent reopening and closing of schools due to alarming air pollution. Similar stories have been seen in other states where schools were reopened only to be closed and reopened. However, toThere is also optimism among schools that the closure will not last indefinitely this time.
Anshu Mittal, director of MRG School Delhi, said the pandemic has affected students both mentally and academically. With the ever-recurring changes in the way of learning, the feeling of anxiety, stress and confusion is evident in students.
“As educators, schools and teachers are now largely focused on inculcating coping mechanisms to ensure the social and emotional well-being of children. In addition, the role of parents has now also become provisional, where they are not only guardians, but also motivators and counselors for their children,” she said.
Meanwhile, Vinod Malhotra, Adviser, Seth Anandram Jaipuria Group of Educational Institutions pointed out that any disruption in children’s learning will hinder their overall development.
“The school system provides an organized and collaborative learning paradigm characterized by continuity and sustainability. Any disruption to this will inevitably cause stress, which will certainly impact learning outcomes. The health of the children also becomes a concern, due to its psychosomatic nature. We will have to devise a system that provides a systemic approach and becomes a new norm,” emphasizes Malhotra.
Schools close no feasible solution
Experts from education teams at the World Bank to UNESCO have warned of school closures due to long-term losses. However, governments are stuck in making the difficult choice between health and education for children.
World Bank Global Education Director Jaime Saavedra recently pointed out that even if there are new waves, closing schools should be the last resort.
Speaking of the impact of school closures due to the pandemic in India, Saavedra said the “impact is more severe than previously thought” and learning poverty is likely to increase much more than expected.
“In countries like India, where educational inequalities existed before the pandemic and learning poverty levels were staggering, the stakes are high. The learning poverty in India is expected to increase from 55 percent to 70 percent due to learning loss and more children out of school,” he said.
The paradigm of Saavedra’s theory is evident in India. Recently, an MLC from Aurangabad wrote a letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray asking him to reconsider closing schools and universities.
He stated that as schools and colleges remain closed, the move will negatively impact students’ writing and reading skills as well as their knowledge acquisition skills.
‘Innovative and inclusive solutions’ need of the hour
Shaheen Mistri, founder and CEO of the Teach For India initiative, believes it is time we engage students in the conversation and ask them to contribute to the solutions that affect them.
“Most Indian children do not have the resources to learn online. Most don’t even have access to a smartphone or stable internet connection. The digital divide in India needs solutions and we need them now. Solutions that are innovative, inclusive and friendly. It is important to ensure that learning does not suffer from incorporating blended learning into teaching practice, which: combines online educational materials and opportunities with classroom methods,’ suggested Mistry.
Likewise, Seema Kaur, director of Pacific World School said regular reflection activities should be held to keep that door of optimism and hope alive among our children and help them count their blessings in difficult times.
Meanwhile, Shalini Advani, director of Pathways School Noida, said it is essential for schools to consciously teach resilience strategies, monitor mental health and have staff dedicated to providing support.