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Don’t thrust learning poverty upon children

By Vijay Darda | 24-01-2022

Pandemic threatens to jeopardise the future of kids, and their emotional intelligence is likely to be impacted too

Vijay Darda

The precious lives lost in the aftermath of atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki turned out to be the gravest tragedy in human history and its after-effects were far more painful as those who survived it contracted several dreaded diseases. Their life became miserable. They went through severe trauma and got frustrated with their sufferings and started to think as to what is the use of such a life? Its deleterious effects on the later generations are still visible. While feeling the pain of people during my visit to Japan, my eyes moistened and my heart wept. Will the future of our children follow a similar trajectory after coronavirus?

Since the initial days of the coronavirus epidemic, I have been very anxious, especially about children. I have also been constantly talking to experts and psychologists in the field of education about the ill-effects it can have on the personality of children. Now my concern has exacerbated following the statement of Jaime  Saavedra, Global Education Director, World Bank. He has stated that the effect of the epidemic on the education of children is going to be more severe than what was thought. A situation of learning poverty is emerging. Learning poverty means inability to read and understand even a simple sentence by the age of 10 years. In common parlance, we can call it learning or academic poverty.

I have been constantly monitoring the mental state of the children. I have realised that children have suffered the most but how can they express that? The effect varies according to age. Children in KG or primary schools may have a different effect, while those in secondary schools show some different changes. The children of KG and primary schools have started believing that there is nothing called school. And if it is, it is online and at home! Whenever you feel like learning, sit in front of the tablet and do something! It will take time to change their perception. It will not be easy for them to go to school and follow the routine. Though a lot of changes are taking place, I will not call them permanent, and the effects of the epidemic will linger on long after its departure. For example, the children of KG had barely started going to schools when they were closed following the pandemic outbreak. Now these kids are over two years old and when they go to school again everything will be new and adjusting to it won’t be easy for them.

The school has its own environment. Its discipline has a profound effect on shaping the personality. Children have been deprived of it for two years. Everyone is at home but they are all lost in themselves. It is not yet clear how much attention those at home pay towards the children. Some people pay attention, but many parents have become so irritable that they have started venting their ire on the children.

There is a greater risk of personality disorder affecting children under these circumstances. Older children are victims of different problems. In the initial phase of school shutdown, many parents pushed children towards mobiles and computers so that they could keep playing games and not disturb the parents. Many parents didn’t care what else the kids were watching. It is feared that many may also have gotten addicted to porn. Staring at the screen continuously will also harm the eyes of the children. They will have to wear glasses.

Of course, technology should be used and is being utilised in education but technology cannot be the answer to the traditional style of face-to-face learning. When the eyes of the teacher and the children meet, it has a different effect. What other children used to ask inside the class and the conversation that used to take place are missing. This emotional power cannot be gained by learning online. There is no such situation as the emotional bond between the teacher and the children. Therefore, the personality of the children is not taking the desired shape. A few years later, when the situation becomes normal, we will definitely see its ill-effects in some form or the other. Due to the lockdown, children are not able to go to the playground to play games and they are unable to meet friends. Most importantly, there will be a change in emotional intelligence. Let me illustrate the definition of emotional intelligence by citing an example. Whenever there is an accident, a lot of people gather but there are very few people who call an ambulance. Some people just look the other way while some others even crack jokes. This behaviour depends on emotional intelligence. One cannot learn these things sitting at home. It is learnt along with others. The child learns a lot from the feeling of touch. Thus, there has been a huge loss in the field of emotional intelligence in the last two years.

Children in rural areas are worst affected. They have no access to proper internet connection, smartphones and tablets. This lack of electronic resources has alienated children from studies. They are under tremendous pressure that time is running out and they are not able to study. This pressure is impacting them psychologically. Therefore, it is high time the schools reopened all over the country. It is a welcome development that some states have reopened schools or the date of reopening has been announced.

As I said, there have been serious and far-reaching effects on children. If there is going to be a long-term effect, it is necessary that substantive research is conducted on this serious problem and the focus should be on what emotional support is needed to bring the children back to normal. The opinion of psychologists, educationists and other experts should be taken into consideration and corrective steps should be initiated accordingly. The government has to take some extraordinary steps. We are the youngest nation in the world. These children are our assets, strength and future. Let us hope our future is not jeopardised in any way. Stay safe!

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Pandemic threatens to jeopardise the future of kids, and their emotional intelligence is likely to be impacted too


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