Kids’ mental, physical health worry parents

BHUBANESWAR: Jagruti Mishra, mother of nine-year-old Sidhi is worried as her daughter struggles with simple mental maths and reading texts. Although Sidhi has been attending online classes, the learning process has been slow.
“I think she has become a bit dull and remembers less than what she used to when she was attending school. Online class is not as effective as physical classroom teaching. Lack of a proper routine, attention deficit and the right learning atmosphere has had a serious impact on learning abilities of children,” said Jagruti, a corporate employee who has been juggling work-from-home and household chores.

With schools shut for over a year, not only learning abilities of children has been affected, it has also left an impact on their psycho-social behaviour and mental health. Parents and experts expressed concern over the mental as well as physical development of children.

Teachers said though learning abilities have not gone down, the system is not effective enough and children are more distracted in online classes. “Earlier, when we used to ask questions in class, students used to answer immediately. Now they take help from Google or parents or look for answers in books or copies. Attention deficit among kids has increased due to lack of classroom teaching. Children’s handwriting has also become slow due to lack of regular practice.

There is bound to be some gap in learning skills of children when schools reopen,” said Sheila William, a teacher.
“While growing up children learn a lot from peers and sitting in the classroom, listening to the teacher and doing lessons under their guidance. Online classes or parental teaching cannot have the same learning outcome as offline classes,” said Mihir Mohanty, a professional counsellor.

Besides, the fear of getting infected is leading to behavioural changes among adolescents. “My son is in Class XII. He was quite a serious student but after the government promoted all without conducting the annual exam, he seemed to have lost interest in studies,” said Rudra Narayan Parida, a banker.

The situation is worse in rural areas where schools are not only centres of learning but also cater to the nutritional needs of children. “Many children in rural areas are becoming victims of domestic violence. Some of them are also engaged as child labour to add to the family’s income during the crisis. I am afraid a large number of them may never return to school again,” said Arun Kumar Sahoo, a social worker.