An Educational Divide: Online Classes in the times of a Pandemic

11 September 2020 / By Social Media

TW: Mention of Suicide

The Covid-19 pandemic has not just severely affected the physical health of the individuals, it has disrupted our day-to-day proceedings, and life as we have known it has changed for people from all walks of life. However, for some, the situation has only aggravated their already impoverished state and has brought into focus the existing inequities and inequalities that persist in our country.

The global health emergency caused by the COVID-19 has led to a nationwide complete lockdown. This has triggered an increase in mental health-related cases across the nation along with the rest of the world. Psychologically distressing issues such as frustration, anxiety, loss or
sudden increase of appetite, mood swings, lack of a sleep-cycle, and suicidal tendencies are becoming quite common during the lockdown period.

These tendencies are getting increasingly evident in Assam as well, where a teenage boy of 15, who did not have a smartphone or any other such connecting device to attend online classes being conducted by the school, died of suicide in the Chirang District. The boy was a student of class X in Tukrajhapar Higher Secondary School, an important school year as per the Indian Education System. The police had also recovered a suicide note in Bodo language from the incident spot.

The head of the village informs in the report that online classes for the students were started by the school authorities since the educational institutions have remained closed since March 15 th , 2020 due to the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent imposition of a
nationwide lockdown. “But his family could not afford a smartphone to him to attend the online classes which created tremendous mental pressure, and consequently he went under severe depression,” mentions the village head.

Another similar case occurred on June 6 th , 2020, in West Jorhat Assam, where a girl died of suicide following her High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC) or class 10 th Board result. She had received 1 st Division with letter marks (the score of 80) in 1 subject. It’s worth noting that this year exams were conducted amidst a nationwide lockdown with all schools closing up.

Following the suspension of in-person classes, teachers have been forced to rely on digital modes of communication to impart learnings and send and receive assignments; the lack of a smartphone/tablet makes this unachievable for a child. This has claimed many lives and continues to arrest any form of education for some children. Moreover, in the absence of a clear timeline, educational institutions have also been facing a lot of problems in holding year- end examinations or various other entrance examinations.

This has thrown light on the deteriorating mental health condition of the youth of our country. Children, as young as 7-8 years old have been forced to attend classes on virtual platforms. This not only indicates how kids who are yet to enter adulthood are experiencing severe psychological distress due to the inability to attend classes, perform in their exams, meet their friends, etc. but also points towards the severe ramifications that will occur post-pandemic. Lack of accessibility to these resources will only widen the gap between the rich and the poor, and the privileged and the underprivileged of our country.

Around 20% of people in India experience a mental illness, and about half of these mental disorders begin before the age of 14. One of the major reasons for this skewness towards the teenage populations comprising of students is the academic expectations set on by their
parents, society, and even themselves that glorifies excellence in all academic spheres while neglecting growth in any other field.

Thus, it is no surprise to us that this pandemic has upended all of our lives, however, there is a ray of hope, a scope of betterment. A collaborative initiative between Udyam and YWP; is initiated to ensure that the right means can be supplied to children who are struggling to
continue with their education. If you or your family has a smartphone/tablet which is not in use anymore please consider donating it using this link - https://bit.ly/2F0wEA0


REFERENCES

  1. INSIDENE. (June, 2020). Assam: Jorhat girl commits suicide post HSLC result reveals mental stress of students. Retrieved from:  https://www.insidene.com/assam-jorhat-girl-commits-suicide-after-hslc-result/
  2. INSIDENE. (June, 2020). Assam: Class X student deprived of attending online classes commits suicide. Retrieved from:  https://www.insidene.com/assam-class-x-student-deprived-of-attending-online-classes-commits-suicide/
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