I liked this extract from a CNN report, that school dropout doesn’t happen in a day, it happens slowly. Students get a little behind, they get more behind, they can’t imagine catching up, so they give up.
And, the pandemic has made falling behind much easier.
True to the words, when the pandemic had imposed a sudden and indefinite lockdown globally, most of the students thought that they would never return to school. While the brilliant students prayed for the schools to reopen, the back-benchers (for whom education is a drag) took advantage of the opportunity and started to drop out of schools on their own accord.
And, not to forget the students of poor nations, especially of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, who, as it is, don’t have access to schooling due to multidimensional problems like, extreme poverty, nutrition, homelessness, access to water, clothes, and for whom the school was already elusive; the current pandemic has purged even the slightest hope that they had of education. In all, about 1.5 billion students dropped out of schools globally.
The Psychological impact on children
Children have a tender mind and the disruption in education has indubitably triggered some psychological problems in most of them. Though we have vaccinated our children to save them from the physical ill-effects of COVID-19, what about their mental fitness, which has been pushed under the carpet? For, cognitive fitness is not perceived as an immediate problem by most? And, we generally don’t worry about it unless it gets out of control.
Online education, a blessing in disguise
To save the children from losing at least one or two years of their academic years due to the open-ended shutting down of schools/academies, the worried governments adopted a single model of online education so that the students can continue with their studies from the comforts of their home. And, this policy put the spark back in the eyes of hundreds and thousands of children whose future would have been lost to darkness otherwise. And, the worrying parents took a sigh of relief as their children got back to (online) schools.
But, dropouts continued
Despite the efforts of respective governments, many students (especially from poor nations) still dropped out permanently because pandemic-imposed problems got out of hand. Suddenly, their parents had to face unemployment and they were not able to pay their school fees. Moreover, unemployment forced some families to migrate to their villages/hometowns, and children got displaced. And, those who stayed back lacked the facility of a computer/smartphone for the continuation of online education.
Child labor augmented
The statistical graph of child labor saw an upward trend as children dropped out in droves. The poverty of their parents forced them to take up employment prematurely so that they could contribute to household expenses. Children became idle; the famous song of Pink Floyd, ‘We don’t need any education…’ rang in our mind at this time looking at their deplorable condition.
Saving children from violence
Since online education lacks the discipline of school/campus life, many lacked the initiative to study online from the time it was imposed and the trend is still continuing, unfortunately. The dropout numbers are multiplying by the day. According to a CNN report, some teachers have been coming too heavy on their students who are missing their online classes. One student complained that his teacher threatened to shoot him down if he didn’t attend regular classes on Zoom. Even the frustrated parents have taken to violence to put the impish minds in the discipline of online education, which is additionally worsening their psyche.
Misogyny at its best
Nations (especially backward) that don’t support the education of women have been unfortunately celebrating since the girls have started to drop out of academies to help their mothers in household chores, becoming labor or simply getting married.
Promotion without exams
Since the pandemic was refusing to go away, and it became difficult to conduct school examinations during lockdown including boards and universities, our government came up with a smart solution. It imposed a policy nationwide to promote all the students based on the joint performances of their last few academic years including the current year in absence of their final examinations. And, pre-primary and primary levels benefitted more as the academies promoted their students unqualifiedly (cutting down on regular exams), keeping in mind the current pandemic-hit scenario.
Life after the curtains are raised
But life will not be the same for them when schools resume. Teachers and parents will have to put in a lot of effort for their educational recovery. Undoubtedly, this pandemic will harm children’s psychology as well as they will be far behind the syllabus when they will recommence offline attendance. And, the educators will be required to exercise leniency to promote them even(notwithstanding their class performances) for the next couple of years for the sake of their cognitive well-being because the aftermath of the pandemic will ricochet into a few more years. It will not be easy to bring back their focus for fast recovery. Teachers and parents will have to put in the extra effort. And the big question that comes to our mind at this time is if the teachers would go the extra mile to save the children? Would they be more human with their students for the sake of their swift recovery?
The Chinese checker of communism
Some students have moved out of pricey private/public academies and joined reasonable convents/government establishments because of the current economic crisis. Secondly, since we are working and studying from home, the expensive infrastructure of schools/ offices, etc don’t matter anymore. The pandemic has tailed off social status gaps, wheat has been mixed with the chaff and we are feeling like the communists, and like everything else, even education has lost its importance temporarily. These children will certainly need counseling to cope up in their new, economical schools after they join offline academies.
Maturity helped survive
On a good note, college students will not need much effort, given their maturity level. And, academic recovery will be faster for them.
Taking a leaf from Rome, which was not built in a day, our governments have framed need-based policies, step by step, to counteract the ill effects of the pandemic on the education sector. But somewhere down the line, they have forgotten to provide digital facilities to poor students for the online continuation of their education.
For humanity’s sake, can they check the school rosters to get the drop-outs back to school? And promote them even, alongside the continuing quorums without conducting regular exams, taking into consideration their disadvantaged circumstances. It is time for the nations to come together in the time of this crisis and take a joint decision and become more human.
And what about the pre-primary students who were readying themselves to see the schools for the first time. Would they jump one/two years of their beginners’ (academic) years even?
And, not to forget the aspirants of the professional course entrance exams, like the MBBS and Engineering, etc? Would the hitherto, customary qualifying cut-off go down as well? I think it should come down in all countries (and in India, by a reasonable 10-15 percent or so) given the present model of promotion for students of high school and colleges where marking will not be error-free without regular exams, and many will be left grumbling. So let’s be more lenient here as well to avoid pouring cold water on their enthusiastic(a professional career’s) dreams.
The woes of the students will get resolved practically this way, but their mental health will still need to be taken care of; and at this time, meditation classes will be a good idea to bring back the focus and concentration of the students after the reopening of the academies.
Understanding that pandemic implied maladies were not in anybody’s control, and they, the small children with tender minds and the mature adolescents who will be representing the future workforce should be saved in time, let the educators be a bit more flexible for the sake of the future and cerebral health of hundreds and thousands of its student force. We, as a world, can together fight this pandemic better by learning from one another. I hope this article can serve as a quick-fix solution to fill up the temporary educational cracks of the pandemic.
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