Online classes trigger many health issues, says Kerala education minister
Online classes trigger several health problems, with about 36 per cent of students reporting neck pain and another 28 per cent complaining of eye ailment, Kerala education minister V Sivankutty said in the state assembly on Monday, suggesting that regular classes need to commence at the earliest.
Sivankutty read the statement from a survey conducted by the state council of education research and training, which further stated that “about 22% have anxiety and stress”.
Children in schools have been forced to opt for online classes since April 2020, when the first Covid lockdown was announced in the country. After that, while secondary and higher secondary classes have opened in some states for a short duration, the schools till upper primary level have remained shut in most of the states. Kerala is not an exception.
Sivankutty said the government is waiting for the Centre’s directive to open schools, and a final decision will be taken soon. It is planning to open schools for senior students, but the high volume of virus cases in the state leaves it in a quandary. Neighbouring states Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have already announced their plan to open educational institutions in a structured manner.
“We can’t continue online classes forever. Our study shows students suffer from some ailment or the other due to online classes. We have to go back to the old system as soon as possible,” he said in the assembly.
The minister said to reduce Covid-related mental stress students will be given free counselling. Some children lost their parents and relatives in the pandemic and turned orphans. The state had announced several plans to look after them.
“We have to make parents also aware of the inherent dangers of overuse of the internet. We will give training to them also. Many non-government bodies have come forward,” he said. “Schools will reopen in different phases. We have to inoculate students before opening. We will ensure a smooth opening after meeting all norms,” he said.
Many experts said strict adult guidance or monitoring is needed for internet use by younger children, and parents will have to lay down ground rules for the usage to avoid overexposure and exploitation. Some parents also complained that after each class, schools often take a long break keeping children glued to the screen for a long.
“Strict parental guidance needed for younger children. They have to ensure a balance between the use of gadgets and avoiding their harmful effects,” said P Niveditha, a teacher, adding that the parents will have to keep a vigil.
“Digital world opens a new vista for students. But they will have to be careful. Children with behavioural issues can spin into gadget addiction fast,” said child psychologist Dr T V Anil Kumar. He said online classes will leave a spectre of screen addiction in many children. Many students also admitted that online classes can’t be compared to traditional classes, which help them to embrace many qualities.
Besides this, another danger lurks the digital classes, complained teachers and parents. Some anti-social elements have started hacking and posting vulgar posts in groups meant for online classes. At least 51 such complaints surfaced in the state in the last three months, and cybersecurity experts said the majority of such posts are created outside the country.