From learning loss to fear of Covid-19 at home, reminiscent of when children were confined to their homes
Hyderabad: Tanya (name changed) shook in fear when a teacher asked her to read an excerpt from the textbook. She was too scared to even look at the professor. After the pandemic, when schools reopened, 11-year-old Tanya was admitted to ZPHS Jawaharnagar in Medchal Malkjagiri. A school dropout, she was too scared to go to class.
Tanya is not an isolated case. When schools were closed, children forgot most of what they knew. Many children, especially in the slums, could not attend online classes and it had become extremely difficult for them to keep up with school. This added to their anxiety and inferiority complex. This was reflected in their personality when they returned to school after the pandemic.
On the occasion of World Mental Health Day 2022, NewsMeter looks back at how the pandemic and online schooling have affected children. This year’s theme is “Making mental health and well-being for all a global priority”.
The National Council for Education, Research and Training (NCERT) surveyed to understand student mental health. The most common emotions experienced by students were fatigue and lack of energy (46%), tears (33%) and loneliness 2-3 times in a well (26%). Only 55% of respondents say they are satisfied with their body image. This is scary because it can have harmful emotional, physiological and psychological effects. 28.4% of respondents were reluctant to ask questions when they had difficulty understanding, indicating a lack of confidence.
A study led by Anupama Korlakunta, Assistant Professor, Dept of Psychiatry, Gandhi Medical College and his team, aimed to assess the impact of Covid-19 on the mental health of children aged 3 to 8 in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh . The study, which was published in the Indian Journal of Neurosciences, found that countries with fewer restrictions in their Covid-19 containment measures like Germany appeared to have less of an impact on the mental health of miners. . The study also found that girls had a higher risk of depressive and anxiety symptoms.
Dr Preethi Swaroop, senior consultant psychiatrist at Xenia Hospital, Secunderabad, said lack of concentration was a significant concern shared by parents of children during this period. “Children who are borderline attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been severely impacted by the pandemic and the resulting online classes,” he said.
He also explained how extended hours of online lessons without proper sports or playtime lead to weight gain in some children. This, in turn, developed an inferiority complex in the children when they returned to school after two years.
Dr Swaroop also said children with special abilities were the most affected due to the pandemic. “During Covid-19, children suffering from conditions like autism could not benefit from personal care. Children who regularly received therapies suddenly found themselves without therapeutic facilities. This discontinuity led to anxiety in children “, did he declare. The psychosocial environment at home is another factor that determines children’s mental health. “There was fear in the families regarding Covid-19. When the children first saw their parents worried and tense, they also became anxious,” Dr Swarup explained.
Mental health, a privilege for the less fortunate
In urban settings, the importance of mental health was recognized, but there was no awareness in rural areas. Families in rural areas were busy meeting their basic living needs and as a result little attention was paid to mental health.
“The loss of learning adds to heightened anxieties for children, especially those who are marginalized. knowledge in a post-pandemic world. the struggle has been there, and it is for real,” said Hima Bindu, a child rights worker in the urban slums of Jawaharnagar.
She said slum dwellers are caught in a web of survival. “They have no awareness and no time for such things,” Hima said.
UNICEF has suggested some measures that can ensure the emotional well-being of students, including listening to children’s concerns, checking on how they are doing, providing them with accurate information about Covid-19, encouraging play and sports, etc. At a broader level, various studies emphasize the need for multisectoral intervention programs to prepare children and their families to develop healthy coping mechanisms during such crises.