Experts Wednesday stressed on the need to improve opportunities for students to engage and interact with their classmates by incorporating extracurricular activities in virtual mode amid the on-going pandemic. They further argued that these types of activities provide a sense of connection and normalcy during Covid-19 when students feel isolated and stressed.
A Delhi based Psychologist and Therapist Akriti Hussain said, the main drawback vis-Ã -vis online academic education is in the areas of physical fitness and social skills which are an integral part of life, especially in growing children where they learn skills like appropriate social interactions, coping, emotional regulation and taking care of their physical and mental well-being.
Hussain said, â€œI think the online classes are a fabulous way to bridge the gap between the need for their education and the distance needed to be maintained for the safety of the children and their families.â€
She said, â€œIt creates a productive safety net that enables a sense of purpose among students and helps them to stay connected. While this is not ideal but considering we are not living in an ideal world currently, it is the best case scenario. Therefore, as far as the future of students is concerned, I think the schools, students and parents are doing the best they can.â€
HussainÂ further said that human beings especially children are very resilient and creative and will continue to be so, which is what has given rise to the virtual world in the first place and will keep adjusting till things return to normal.
Speaking about the effectiveness of virtual classes, Hussain said, â€œThe effectiveness of online classes depends on the way they are being executed as I have seen many discrepancies between different schools, each with different processes, focal points and scheduling systems.â€
â€œHowever, overall I think they are very effective. Online classes also provide routine and structure to a child's day which is a much needed learning tool in children that helps in enhancing attention and executive functioning skills,â€ she said.
Hussain said that the schools should also incorporate light physical education classes and extracurricular classes in their schedule to keep children engaged and refreshed as well as continue to hone their skills in these areas.
When asked about the a potent way to make sure students do not feel caged or confined to their homes, Hussain said, â€œI think being 'caged' and 'confined' to home is almost like the need of the hour to be safe and well in the given situation especially after the second wave, however, online extracurricular activity and physical education classes would certainly help.â€
She said that the online extracurricular activity and physical education classes would also be very beneficial to clock in outdoor time with parents, siblings and other family members in personal gardens or parks in the evening for example with double masks only.
When the Rising Kashmir asked Hussain about the alternative mechanism that the government can adopt in addition to online classes, she said, â€œSome of my constructive suggestions would be to ensure that all schools and students in remote areas get access to online lesson plans and books.â€
She also advocated for vaccinating each and every person in the country at an earliest.
Sadaqat Rehmanâ€”a psychologist at Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar who is posted as an assistant professor at the institute of health and Neuro-sciences says that due to classes continuing virtually, students have been forced to stick to the limited vision that forces them to focus only on their laptops and mobile phones.
â€œMost of the time the minor students indulge in playing with toys during the online classes. They are not concentrating fully towards the lectures being done via online classes,â€ she said.
Rehman also said there has been a deficit of physical interaction among the students which has caused several insecurities among them.
â€œAmong the students there has been a fear of losing their friends as they cannot go out. They feel alienated and in the future the students may have difficulty in socialisation,â€ Rehman said.
When asked about the solution, Rehman said that the students should be allowed to have physical interaction with the teachers and school friends so that in the later stage they wonâ€™t have any sort of fear.
â€œThere are some parents who donâ€™t even allow their wards to go in the courtyards or speak to their siblings. Negative thoughts have been created among the young generation,â€ she said.
Private school teacher, Uzma said authorities can frame a time table wherein auxiliary subjects can be taught for three days and main subjects for another three days.
â€œIn a week, the authorities can frame a time table wherein auxiliary subjects can be taught for three days and main subjects for another three days,â€ she said.
Meanwhile, Principal Secretary School Education Department, B K Singh said, â€œCommunity classes are better than virtual and other classes as it creates more awareness and has a lesser risk of getting infected.â€
He said that the department feels that the community classes are a better option than any other modes especially for those students who donâ€™t have access to the virtual classes.
Â â€œAs of now, the community classes are being mainly conducted in remote areas of north Kashmirâ€™s Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora district and some areas of other districts of Kashmir division too,â€ Singh said adding â€œWe are also trying to establish the community schools in Ramban, Doda and Reasi districts of Jammu region too.â€
He further said that besides community classes, the online classes and Tele and radio classes should also not be neglected and should be conducted regularly.
On asking about the resumption of physical academic activities in schools of Jammu and Kashmir, Singh said, â€œIf the risk rate of cases will be the same as in January and February, the government will think about resumption of offline classes.â€
He said that as of now the government cannot take any such decision wherein the students and staff will not feel safe. â€œ. We are following the directives of the Disaster Development Authorities and we will see what they will decide about the issue,â€ Singh said.