As thousands of lives get lost in this horrifying second wave of Corona pandemic, it may probably sound improper if we mention loss of knowledge and knowhow accumulation herewith. .
I am thinking of the higher secondary school students who have never been in the Physics lab, Chemistry lab, Botany lab or Zoology lab. I am talking about Engineering students who have not touched a lathe/machinery or nut-bolt in the Mechanical lab, not held a test tube or conical flask in their hands in the Chemical lab, not been on industrial tours or construction sites, not bisected a frog or reptile. I am concerned of the medical/ dental/ veterinary students who may be missing their autonomy classes vital to mastering physiology, their OP ward hands-on experience that can hone their diagnosis skills, semester examinations and of course the crucial internships that may initiate them as serving physicians in their chosen medical profession… What a tremendous loss to humanity! Can we even quantify this knowledge and expertise loss across India! Very unlucky batches, those that are caught in-between.
Many wonder aloud about school kids studying at home. I have no problem with that as my son had homeschooled under me in Malaysia upto standard two. The only issue may be fitting into classrooms when it is time for the children to go back to schools. The younger ones can adapt very fast to changing scenarios unlike us adults. The one problem I do foresee is the toilet training. This requires disciplining from early years controlling bladder from kinder garten. A second one could be relating to the morning routines and time-keeping/punctuality apart from eating habits, keeping hygiene and grooming neat. But none of this is unmanageable.
There are mentions of severe neck pain and even rare cases of vertigo in young children and teenagers who are learning from home online without attending schools in last 1.5 years. These are the ones glued to their mobile phone and computers for hours with incorrect posture that can injure their spine. This is an area that we must focus on apart from the mental health of the children who are denied their outdoor playing time and extra-curricular activities that may require physical attendance. Vitamin D from direct sunlight which is essential for bone growth is denied to growing kids. Last but not the least is the human touch to holistic education which is absent with the teachers staying home and schools closed. Online classes may hardly replace the classroom teacher parked in front of the blackboard.
Vocational courses have born the brunt of the covid 19 lockdowns that shut practical classes to their students. These include semi-skilled professions like plumbing, electricals, electronics, carpentry, air conditioning etc.
Fortunate are the school and university students in commerce stream who are least affected by the covid 19 effect on their education.
The computer students seem to be faring okay given the conditions after the accounting ones and arts & literature graduates.
Campus interviews have not been happening, and if they do happen fail to materialize into concrete appointments for fresh graduates. Those who wish to pursue higher education are left in the quandary unable to decide as job prospects grow dim. Even if this can be a temporary phase in our lives, covid impact will stay with us for a long time to come.
Medical and engineering aspirants in present times can seriously contemplate taking a break after finishing school until situation gets normal in an year or two. In my personal opinion this will be a better and thoughtful choice over missing valuable classes.
How to make best of the circumstances is what the academic institutions must focus on. Will it be possible to open up science and tech labs to staggered batches of students.
The years 2020 and 2021 need to be written off from the Biodata and CV of all those pursuing higher secondary school education, undergrad and postgrad courses in universities. Employers need to relax their prerequisites such as job experience when it comes to recruitments.
The restless teenagers need to be handled with care. They are at the threshold of their adulthood and they must not be allowed to lose their hope. It is important to engage them fruitfully in alternate activities and keep up their spirits.
Let us cheer our younger generation and not allow them to wither before they bloom. Looking forward to a bright and cheeful future!