Bringing students back to normal classes a challenge

Unprecedented break seems to have adversely affected several children

The unprecedented break from normal schooling seems to have adversely affected a sizeable section of students who may now need rigorous reorientation to return to the fold.

It was one of the patterns noticed by teachers and counsellors attached to the Career Guidance and Adolescence Counselling Cell of the General Education Department as Class 10 and Plus Two students returned to school after a prolonged break ahead of their exams.

“A little bit of anxiety while returning to normal classrooms ahead of exams is, in fact, a positive sign, which means that they [students] care about their performance. But there is another section who seems to be so casual and lazy that they do not seem to care. They will have to be reoriented and brought back to normal schooling through sustained emotional support and other assistance,” said C.M. Azeem, State coordinator of the cell.

A two-day training for teachers by mental health experts sought to address the issue by focusing on a smooth transition from digital to classroom learning and performing in exams while living with the pandemic.

Some students, especially in the higher secondary classes, have taken up part-time jobs while screen addiction has emerged as another major problem among a section of students.

“As the World Health Organisation and the UNESCO have pointed out, the prolonged break may impact long-term development of students, leading to increased drop-outs and, in case of girls, even being married off, lack of motivation, academic backwardness etc. This may hamper the quality of the future generations, though Kerala remains better placed compared to other States in coping with the issue,” said Anilkumar T.V., professor, department of psychiatry, Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram. He led one of the training sessions for 1,500-odd teachers.

“Screen addiction could also affect the sleep structure and, by extension, the biological clock. Hitting the bed after excessive screen time will drive away sleep, to beat which they again return to the screen and thus get caught in that vicious cycle that will also affect their concentration levels. The anxiety surrounding the pandemic also affects students,” said Dr. Anilkumar.

He added that there could be no common time frame for bringing back the affected students to the fold. “Some can overcome it soon, while it takes longer for some others. It depends on their coping abilities, perceptions, and social and emotional support,” said Dr. Anilkumar.

The focus is on a solution-based approach rather than emphasising on problems. Students should be reminded of their inner strength and capabilities and the support mechanism available for them to deal with their issues. However, some students may be depressed and it is critical to identify that and facilitate professional help beyond school counsellors and even medications if needed.

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