What can be the impacts on the mindset of children to the rejoining of schools during COVID-19?

The impact of COVID-19 lockdown on the emotional state, feelings and lifestyle of children and their parents has been huge.

COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures led to social isolation that affected the mental health of the general population all over the world, causing an increase in mental distress, depression and anxiety. This resulted in changes in feelings and lifestyle that include reduced physical activity, unhealthy eating habits, inadequate sleep quality and feelings of loneliness. The lifestyle of families was also drastically affected: parents suffered psychological distress due to unstable financial circumstances, school closures, and suspended educational services. Children and adolescents also started to experience adverse emotional responses like stress, helplessness, social and risky behavioural problems, anxiety, and depression. Not just this, adverse changes in lifestyle such as sleeping problems, increased screen exposure, reduced physical activity and unhealthy eating habits also caused detrimental effects.

Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear have triggered mental health conditions or amplified existing ones. Many people are facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety, all thanks to the lockdown & its effects on lives & livelihood.

Meanwhile, people affected by Covid 19 suffer neurological and mental complications, such as delirium, agitation, and stroke. Others who have lost family members or friends to this terrible virus, suffer the trauma and the fear of further such loss. In all, the pandemic had a great impact on the physical and mental health of the population across the world. Children, in particular, have borne the brunt of missing school life, long hours of inactivity, lack of attention from busy parents, changes in food and sleeping habits, overexposure to screen time and overuse of social media.

Starting a new school year is always full of emotions and especially so during a pandemic. Several schools across the world have started teaching in classrooms, some others continue through distance learning. But children in every city or village are looking forward to meeting their friends and teachers in person. But, what do children feel about coming back to schools during Covid-19?

One can observe the mixed feelings of excitement, joy, and confusion among the students, parents, and teachers. After the many weeks of distance learning, which was challenging for children, parents, and teachers alike, the willingness to go back to normal learning processes is now demonstrably high; everyone displays a readiness to comply with the new safety regulations set by the government. However, there is a segment that is petrified about the thought of being in a group, fearing they could contract the virus. Also, the fact that children do not yet have a vaccine to offer some amount of protection, makes it all the more fearsome for some to come back to schools during Covid 19.

The first day back in the classroom will be unusual and emotional for both students and teachers. Wearing a mask, which is mandatory for teachers, makes their jobs physically harder due to the strained breathing. Masks also cover their emotional expressions, requiring students to focus harder to equally understand the information teachers are conveying.

Many students feel they would wake up much happier if they were to go to school. They feel they would have more confidence in their routine. Also, they are excited about the thought of being surrounded by friends who make them feel hyped up to start the day. With online learning, they feel they just carry on about the day with no specific emotion. A large number of students feel they will be able to develop their learning better in the school environment. They miss their friends!

There is another group of students who are very reluctant to come back to schools during covid 19. Apart from the fear of catching the infection, they feel they have more time being at home and can manage time better. They also feel that sitting in the comfort of their room & eating & drinking whenever they feel like, is far better than being subject to discipline at school, where everyone has to follow set rules.

Yet another group of students are mixed about their feelings. Although they love being at home, amidst their family, they feel that life without school is much more boring than they imagined. Being with the family at all times, especially when people are losing their loved ones, is comforting, but it’s really easy to get distracted at home – you either hear the TV on, someone’s cooking, police and ambulance sirens in the background, etc. They would like to go to school to use the time at school to complete schoolwork. Moreover, learning seems difficult on the online mode because before the pandemic you were jogging and now you are crawling.

A section of students feels they are doing more work than they would usually have if schools weren’t closed — and they have to do it all sitting in the same spot for hours. The assignments given are often easy for a certain group of people, while for others it’s difficult. The support offered is not the same, online. Another aspect of online learning that is annoying is that technology can be fun, but it doesn’t always help, not to mention the numerous glitches they face right from internet speed to power cuts.

Students who are visual learners, and prefer to take a hands-on approach, have expressed that they suffer the most, as they lose out on activity-based learning. Online learning doesn’t offer much scope for that. When it comes to team/group activities, it’s not as glorious as it seems.

Many students have opined that they have received great emotional support from their teachers throughout the lockdown period. Nevertheless, being at home all the time makes them think more about the virus and how it has affected people around. This often brings in the thought ‘are we going to be next?’

The primary issue, according to most students, is the loss of many factors for success, being at home. Isolation, no routine, even just the lack of repercussions for not doing work. All of this leads to a decline – a decline in performance, a decline in motivation, a decline in interpersonal skills & a decline in enthusiasm.

Thus, students range in their feelings from ecstatic to outright cynical about coming back to schools during covid 19. We must get back to normalcy, for we have lost much to the pandemic. It’s important to make the best use of the time and opportunity available. The pandemic has taught us that ‘nothing in life is promised.’

 

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