Among the many aspects of our lives that were disrupted due to the Covid Pandemic, the impact on students of all ages is worrisome. Not only are kids and young adults have had their studies disrupted, the added risk of them losing out on the precious face to face interactions that are so essential in their formative years, means that we risk losing a generation due to the Pandemic. As it is, virtual pedagogy and online classes, have robbed the students of the valuable “lessons” that are crucial to their cognitive development. Added to this is the lack of emotional skill building that comes with in person education.
While many nations worldwide are reopening schools and colleges to in person teaching, the uncertainty centered on Covid is like a Sword of Damocles, wherein such education is at risk of disruption again, when the predicted Third Wave strikes. With so many confusion, it is difficult for both parents and educators to plan in advance that is so essential to the studies of any kid or young adult. Indeed, when the only certainty is more uncertainty, even the Best and Brightest of the students tend to atrophy while the rest languish in the miasma of lack of clarity regarding their studies.
Moreover, research has shown that kids and young adults learn through a process of discovery and intuition that is possible when they interact with their peers and the “by chance” insights that they gain and glean with experimentation and trial and error processes. The Pandemic has taken away this crucial aspect of a child’s education and to paraphrase Mark Twain, the real learning is outside the classroom, which this generation of kids and young adults are losing out on.
While the advanced West has transitioned into the Digital Age in a relatively smooth manner, the Third World is facing a crisis what with the existing deficiencies in the learning process compounded by the Digital Divide meaning that the “loss” of educational opportunities is being felt disproportionately by the Less Privileged. After all, how many of the Millions of Poor and Impoverished kids and their parents can afford even a basic Smartphone that is needed for Online Classes, not to mention the lack of more advanced tools required for such learning.
In addition, here in India, the Federal and the State Governments are tying themselves in knots trying to figure out when to resume physical classes, and if exams have to be held, and how. Per my understanding, the policymakers at all levels are as clueless as the parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant goes, with multiple orders being passed, withdrawn, and then passed again, in a rather haphazard manner. Imagine the stress on the students and their parents, not knowing if they have to take the exams, when they need to attend in person classes, not to leave out the frequent “appeals” to the courts to intervene to sort out the “mess”.
In this context, the hapless parents can only do that much and even in the West, recent news reports indicate that many women are delaying returning to work, confused as they are by the lack of certainty about their children’s school and college openings, added to the extra stress of not being able to or afford daycare and childcare needed if they return to work. So, what we have is a Perfect Storm of converging events due to the Pandemic that has made life especially difficult for learners in all countries.
In addition, the situation is dire for those students studying in a country other than their own, as with the onset of the Pandemic, they were asked to leave or stay on making their arrangements, and now they are being asked to join or return only after they have been vaccinated. This is making many foreign bound students run from Pillar to Post for the vaccinations, as well as for the multiple layers of paperwork needed for them to take admissions abroad. On the other hand, with many universities in the US and UK not reopening fully, those who stayed back, now face mounting expenses for day to day living as well as the fear of being sent back due to the bureaucracy that deals with their visas and stays abroad.
The points put forth so far indicate a Generation at Risk due to the Covid Pandemic and hence, all stakeholders have to step in and work together to “salvage” the situation and “save” the rest of the academic years of this generation. Otherwise, the unforgiving Pandemic would only wreak more havoc on this affected Generation that is below the age of 25 as they prepare for adulthood and careers that seem more tenuous now.
Last, lest we forget, we have had other major disruptions such as the World Wars in the 20th Century that similarly “played” with the lives of learners and perhaps, our policymakers can learn a thing or two from the experiences of then to apply them now and ensure that we do not have a Lost Generation of Learners, whose education has been disturbed to the point that it is irreparably damaged.
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