Covid has left students with uncertain future

Updated on Nov 30, 2020 04:57 AM IST

Among migrants, 91% of households reported loss of income and 60% households reported they had no money to pay for food, which led to insecurity and domestic violence.

Economic setbacks for families led to one in 10 children saying they would not return to school or do not know whether they would return to school once the institutions reopen.(HT Photo)
Economic setbacks for families led to one in 10 children saying they would not return to school or do not know whether they would return to school once the institutions reopen.(HT Photo)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By, New Delhi

Rising vaccinationalism, industry wars, and the use of unpublished interim data to declare vaccine successes are fuelling uncertainty about the safety, efficacy and affordability of potential coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccines on which the world has pinned its collective hope to reboot businesses, education and travel sooner than later.

Prime Minister Narendra’s Modi’s visit to three Covid-19 vaccine production centres in Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Pune will help reassure people that more than one vaccine will be available in India by early next year. “Vaccine development is in the final stage but we must not lower our guard… Our priority is to save every life. Once we have the vaccines, we will ensure they are delivered to everyone,” said Prime Minister Modi.

Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia last week said that schools in the Capital are unlikely to open until there is a vaccine. Schools and colleges countrywide have been shut since March because of the pandemic, which has led to irrevocable loss of study time for children, more so for those with no or limited access to digital learning tools.

Four in every five children reported facing obstacles to learning, and three in four said they were stressed because of an uncertain future, ambiguity over going back to school, and loss of family livelihoods, according to a report by Save the Children titled A Generation at Stake: Protecting India’s Children from the impact of Covid-19, released on Friday.

The report polled parents and children from 46 countries including India, where 1,598 parents and 989 children between ages 11 and 17 years from 11 states and two Union territories (Delhi and Jammu & Kashmir) were surveyed to identify their needs to help fill the gaps. The states included Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Assam, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka and Telangana.

Among migrants, 91% of households reported loss of income and 60% households reported they had no money to pay for food, which led to insecurity and domestic violence. Around 11% of children in the general group and 17% children in the migrants’ group reported violence at home during the pandemic.

Economic setbacks for families led to one in 10 children saying they would not return to school or do not know whether they would return to school once the institutions reopen.

“Our findings show that the economic shocks endured during the pandemic have led to a rise in violence against both adults and children, increase in domestic chores and caring duties, particularly for girls, and reduced mental health and well-being. The most vulnerable children are becoming the biggest victims of its social and economic impacts,” said Sudarshan Suchi, CEO, Save the Children.

The report recommends providing psycho-social support to vulnerable children to help them catch up with learning levels and ensure continuity of education for all after schools reopen. Protection programmes, including schemes announced during the pandemic, need to be made accessible to eligible families and children, with special focus on migrant families irrespective of their native place or place of work, the report said.

The developmental impact of school closure on children cannot also be ignored. “Beyond academics, schools provide a space for a child’s social and mental development. Schools are where we meet peers, make friends, learn to form relationships, negotiate, enjoy, support, compromise, find ourselves. Social interactions are essential for social and emotional development, this is where we form a large part of our value system. We must consider schooling holistically, in the context of academics and the development of life skills. Online education has addressed the academics part of it, but it’s the peer interface aspect where we are still struggling. This will continue till students come back to school,” said Dr Samir Parikh, director, mental health and behavioural sciences, Fortis Healthcare.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sanchita is the health & science editor of the Hindustan Times. She has been reporting and writing on public health policy, health and nutrition for close to two decades. She is an International Reporting Project fellow from Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and was part of the expert group that drafted the Press Council of India’s media guidelines on health reporting, including reporting on people living with HIV.

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