Published: 21st September 2022
Educators from across India state that students are showing behavioural issues post-COVID
Aggression, attention deficit, sleeplessness and emotional disturbances are the behavioural issues they pointed out
On Wednesday, September 21, principals, teachers and behavioural experts reported a significant rise in behavioural issues among school children, as schools reopened for offline classes after two years. Educators stated that the situation was delicate and it would take at least a year to bring the affected kids back into the normal course of life.
Aggression, attention deficit, sleeplessness and emotional disturbances, especially among those who had lost their near and dear ones due to COVID-19, were the issues they reported among children. The educators have stressed the need to introduce social-emotional learning programmes and counselling sessions across schools, as per a report by IANS.
"Post-pandemic, there have been huge changes in children, in terms of how they view their teachers, their schools, their peers and so on. Their attention span has reduced and writing skills have taken a toll for sure. Their sleep patterns have also gone for a toss, leading to irritability," said Nikita Tomar Mann, Principal at Indraprastha Global School in Noida.
She also elaborated on the fact that several school children have gone through trauma as their parents went through financial distress in the last two years, resulting in deep emotional issues among them. "Children do understand that their parents faced financial issues like being unable to pay school fees or house rent as some of them lost jobs or faced pay cuts," Mann said. "They came back to school with that kind of understanding, which changed the way they looked at life as well. I think for each kid, it's a different story and the intensity of it also varies from child to child so we need to handle this situation very, very carefully," the principal added.
The IANS report mentions that schools have noticed students taking constant breaks and noted their inability to sit for even 30-35 minutes in the class. Mann said that once the pandemic situation eased and the school reopened, the first thing they did was to introduce the curriculum for social-emotional learning. "It has two components to it: one is financial literacy and the other is social emotional learning. It is all structured where we give an opportunity for children to have discussions with the teachers and express what they feel about a certain thing, without being judged for what is right and what is wrong," she explained.
Sr Pramila Judith Vas, Principal of Fr Agnel School in Greater Noida, said that the pandemic changed the education landscape dramatically, with the distinctive rise of e-learning. "Many parents suffered financially too and expressed their inability to pay fees. Counselling sessions were provided to the parents and their families. The supportive hand was extended to the students to cope up with their emotional responses," he stated.
The educators' statements are confirmed by others as well. According to Dr Sameer Malhotra, Director, Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Max Hospitals, they have seen an increase in behavioural issues in kids due to increase in internet usage, gaming and excessive mobile use. "It has led to irritability, disturbed sleep-wake schedule and demanding behaviour. These kids also display restlessness and conduct problems. Ways out to help these kids should be well coordinated, consistent logical ways to resolve problems," Dr Malhotra said.
Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare, said that children now need to refocus on the importance of physical activities, sports, arts, creativity, friends, learning social skills and communication with friends in the peer groups to effectively deal with the situation. "Our initial focus needs to be an adjustment of children to mainstream schooling, so that they learn the routine, are able to enjoy it, focus a lot on their physical growth, development and sports and help them develop meaningful relationships. That's a way to look out and both parents and teachers need to have these goals in mind," Dr Parikh stated.
Also, a recent survey by the government (NCERT) revealed that a majority of school students' mental health has declined in the country. The survey findings were based on the responses of 3.79 lakh students in 36 states and Union Territories. It additionally found that changes in the schooling system like prolonged school closure, online classes, changes in Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) exams and postponement of exams directly affected lakhs of students.
Acting upon the results of the survey, the NCERT has issued guidelines to schools for early identification and intervention of mental health problems among students. Mental health advisory panels, mental health awareness programmes and pedagogical support have been recommended under these guidelines.
Divya Mohindroo, a Delhi-based counselling psychologist and mental health expert, said that parents needed to keep a separate area or zone at home for studying and children should be told to do a 'digital detox' and not use screens before sleeping and after getting up. "Time management for the children should be balanced with giving them time to rest, and nourish their body, which includes eating well, hydrating well and at least 45 minutes of some physical activity they enjoy. Sharing the schedule and giving small incentives to them on achieving the tasks will help them strike a balance," she advised, as stated by IANS.