Getting dressed, sipping on a glass of milk hurriedly in order to make it on time before the school bell goes off, look like a thing of the past now. The coronavirus pandemic, which led online has changed the whole school-going experience for kids. Going to school from home, for some, has been a much-needed break they needed from a rigourous routine. Some parents say they can watch, without necessarily unnerving them, how their children perform in class. Understand better what their interests, their likes and dislikes are.
“We can now watch how they answer questions, how they react to the teacher. We parents are also working from home, and the kids of the house and the adults have one common room where everyone does their own thing, working, and attending school. Therefore it’s possible to watch our kids. This has been a novel experience for us parents,” says Noida-based mom Garima Sahney.
Psychologically, her seven-year-old daughter, and eight-year-old nephew seem more at ease with their new, and certainly more relaxed school format. Where classes happen in their own backyard. Tells us Sahney’s naughty daughter Myra, “Online classes are better. We can keep talking to people around us, like to our parents near us, since we are on mute. All the students in the online classroom have to keep their volumes on mute compulsorily, while the teacher talks. The teacher never comes to know when we do that!”
The little girl continues that she thoroughly enjoys the generosity of breaks between web-based classes, during which she can peacefully eat her lunch, play with her cousin brother, as well as bring out her toys and play to her heart’s content. Which wasn’t the case when she had to venture out to go to school.
It is a given that the nearly six months of break from going to an actual school, an unprecedented situation, has turned students’ lives upside down. How are they doing mentally, emotionally, psychologically? Shares educationist and founder of ACE, a sports-at-school consultancy organization, Fatema Agarkar, “Some schools have done exceedingly well by skilling teachers and children to use technology, by planning effective schedules with synchronous and asynchronous classes, but for many others the transition has taken a bit longer! We have surely understood how to create learning opportunities, instead of calling or making this year ‘a gap year’. Transformations are happening and yes, families are learning to balance and cope. Teachers are continuing to research and develop strategies to ensure that children continue to evolve.”
But there are other considerations she shares which are a normal part of the whole routine of going to school — the walking to school, the chit-chat in school corridors, face-to-face interactions with the teachers and other staff, sports and physical play — which students miss most today. Most students miss that whole ‘routine’ which also fulfils the need for ‘community’ and a ‘social circle’ in children’s lives. That need to belong, as Agarkar puts it.
Says psychologist and parent Devanshi Choksey Jalan about her two daughters, “Because our kids don’t meet friends, we parents have to fill their baskets in every way. And it’s quite tough to do that. Children will be cranky, sad, irritable, guilty, and they tend to express these emotions differently from adults. As adults when we feel this way we can pick up the phone and call a friend, we can meditate, and indulge in some self care. Children are too young to do many of these things for themselves. We are currently living under the microscope of a pandemic all the time, and often children find that they have no outlet to express various emotions. They are today deprived of meeting their friends in class (which could have been one such outlet to let out the above feelings).”
However, there are definitely some positive aspects to everything having turned on its head for the ones going to school, says Jalan from her own experience with her children. “Life has become slow-paced for my daughters. There is no commute time to go to school; school time itself has become shorter. The kids have the time to get bored, and just be, many times, unlike before. Also, you can really spend quality time with your kids today. We also ensure that our kids get enough exercise, and do gymnastics, which they do at home nearly three times a week.”
Jalan, however, says studying from home can never really replace going to school — a system of education she believes is definitely better. Perhaps, in contrast to the many trends of home-schooling that have emerged over the years and gained legality in many countries around the world — such as the US and Australia. The current pandemic situation mirrors home-schooling in many ways — for example, how much attention the kids get from their parents, the one-to-one focus on their children, the safe environment of study it provides – where one doesn’t have to worry about their child being bullied or worse still being abused. However, the beauty of sitting down in a classroom with one’s friends is what Jalan says is the winner in a more traditional set-up where children go to school.
Nearly five out off 10 of her clients have suffered anxiety, severe stress and depression during the lockdown, says child and women’s psychologist Dr. Shachee Dalvi. This state of mind says the doctor is due to being at home where the news is always on, and there is often bad news, and also because some have found it hard to adapt to new forms of education where their favourite classes are online.
Dalvi gives us the example of one of her patients, an 18-year-old First year B.Com. Student, who struggled a great deal with her online classes since there were audibility and reception problems. To make matters worse, she was also allowed no social media time in her free time by her parents, who were alarmed at the increase in her social media usage during the lockdown. They even took her phone away from her. Being someone who shares everything with her friends, and having no way to express her fears and anxieties, the girl began to feel suicidal.
Dalvi says counselling both parents and child have helped and the girl is much better now, and is even back on her social media, with her parents, through therapy having understood her better.
“Many children and teenagers are going through sadness today. There is no way for them to really meet friends and play. While toddlers are enjoying the increase in attention they are receiving from their parents, it is the older children who are facing the problems. Children who are interested in their studies have understood well online education, paying attention to the changes taking place. It is the hyperactive children, who would otherwise be more disciplined in school, who are finding it difficult to concentrate on an online class,” says Dalvi.