Pandemic has changed the contours of education across the world. From blackboard to mobile screens, from physical classes to online learning, the education system has undergone a paradigm shift. Initially, online classes were seen as a revolutionary idea to impart education to children. As weeks and months passed by, the side effects of online classes started popping up.
Children in Kashmir have been hit harder as they have mostly remained confined to homes since August 5, 2019. For three years now, the students have mostly not attended school. The negative effects on children are unimaginable. The generation that had to start schooling in 2019 and 2020 is yet to understand what a real school means. Despite attending online classes for two years, they have not yet been accustomed to waking up early, getting ready for school, or being dropped and picked up at the bus stop. And online classes can never create an atmosphere of regular schooling where kids have lunch breaks, play with fellow students, and study by themselves without the help of their parents as is seen during online classes. In fact, parents have been found complaining that they do a lot of homework during online classes that are meant to be done by their wards. Besides depression and other mental health issues, doctors have also noticed increasing obesity among children.
In a recent study, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has revealed that 59.2 percent of children use smartphones for instant messaging applications and only 10.1 percent use them for online learning and education.
Titled, ‘Effects (Physical, Behavioral, and Psycho-social) of using Mobile Phones and other devices with Internet Accessibility by Children’, the study said that 30.2 percent of children of all age groups have their own smartphones.
Surprisingly, 37.8 percent of 10-year-olds have a Facebook account and 24.3 percent of the same age group have an Instagram account. Earlier a survey, conducted by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) revealed about 80-90 percent of older students in Central government schools use mobiles rather than laptops to access digital schooling.
Children are facing numerous psychological issues due to increased screen time. However, the challenge is even greater for those children who lack access to smartphones skipping classes. To address the mental health needs of those children, Child Guidance and Wellbeing Centre, CGWC, IMHANS in collaboration with Directorate of School Education DESK, Kashmir initiated community outreach programmes in the various government schools of the valley.
Sensing trouble, parents have been demanding the reopening of schools and higher educational institutions for some time. Last week, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha assured that the educational institutions will be reopened after students are vaccinated
The time has come when the government has to bite the bullet. Several states have reopened schools and started offline classes in a staggered manner. The government needs to take the call at the earliest.