Well, like other sectors, the educational sector has also been affected immensely. It, directly or indirectly, affected both the learning and teaching communities.
By Lhingneilam Touthang
The governments were governing peacefully amongst the citizens of their own countries. Militaries were safeguarding their motherlands. Health workers were looking after the well-being of everyone. Farmers were cropping and harvesting. Markets in the nooks and corners of the world were busy buying, selling, dealing, and bargaining. Wealthy people were enjoying. Poor people were working hard to survive. Middle-class people were working hard to level up their status. Students were working hard to gain good marks and achieve awards, compliments, and win competitions. All were focussing on the activities and projects of their day-to-day life. Movements, travelling, enjoyments, communications, etc., were all doing fine, not knowing what fate had decided for them. Each one was busy with their works. Then, alas! A sudden halt of misery arrived, shaking the whole earth, leaving everyone’s heart thumping unconsciously, causing hectic conditions in the world. It was not a war or villains coming to conquer. But it was an invisible enemy attacking the world. It was nothing but a deadly virus that is impossible to see with our unaided eyes, known as Covid-19. Numerous diseases, viruses, and illnesses exist on earth, but Covid-19 was the only virus that leaves no option to anyone but to accept what fate had decided. Covid-19 is indeed impartially affecting the normal lives of everyone, severely ranging from the greatest to the most ordinary man.
What is Covid-19 Pandemic and how does it spread in Manipur?
So, what is Covid-19 that is creating such chaos? Covid-19 is a recently recognized deadly virus strain. It causes mild respiratory infections and numerous complications, even resulting in the dead of humans. We all know it is transmitted from one person to another if we come into contact with or an object frequently touched by an infected person. I assume diseases occurring over a whole country or a wide area are known as pandemic. Covid-19 was affecting not only a country but the whole world. Hence, it was declared as a Covid-19 Pandemic on March 11, 2020, by WHO. CO- stands for Corona, VI-virus, d-disease. Its name was being issued officially by WHO on February 11, 2020. The first outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2020. The reason behind the cause of the virus and its outbreak remains unclear. It is unclear whether the virus became pathogenic before or after the overspill event. It can be noted that this virus might be the result of adverse climate changes. Immense devastation occurred to several affected countries and states, and that includes our motherland, India, and our homeland Manipur which is located in the North-east region of India. From around March 2020, it has been causing severe health, economic, social, political, and administrative consequences in the state. It is continuing till now, getting more infectious than it was before. I believed many people are still puzzled about the answer to the question; how did it spread in Manipur? But, until now, nobody knows what the answer is. Maybe, only God knows! The first-ever report of Covid-19 detected in Manipur was the infection of a 23-year old girl who was tested positive on returning from the UK on March 23. She was treated in Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical (JNIMS). It is believed that late precautions measures taken by the citizens and also lack of proper measures taken up by the government might be some reasons why the virus spread so soon in the state. No offenses!
How does it affect the peoples?
Surely, even if numerous points were listed, it would never satisfy anyone; this was how much the peoples were affected by the virus. From a very small child to an elderly person, everyone feels suffocated, scared, tired, nervous, bored, and all negative moods one can mention; due to lockdown and protocols to avoid mass infections from the fatal illness. The worst impact was on the daily wage earners who have difficulty fulfilling the necessities of survival and livelihood. Many men and women, including widows and widowers who depend on themselves to survive their family by selling bamboo products, vegetables, kitchen wares, clothes, etc., in the main markets are suffering intensely due to the closure of bazaars market areas to prevent further spreading. Construction site workers do not have a place to work. Migrant workers too! Cinema halls, and actors and actresses not having any contracts. Entertainments channel offices are closed down. Private companies and their employees are suffering from money broke and bankruptcy due to lockdowns. Private clinics cannot admit patients; conditions worsen for those already with diabetes, hypertension, kidney failures, etc. Orphans and old age homes are suffering from shortages of donors. Political leaders are suffering too! Wholesale shops are suffering from intense losses due to minimum consumers. Churches, temples, mosques, and many religious places are closed down. Pilgrims, festivals, and many occasions are either postponed or cancelled to avoid mass gatherings and infections. Farmers are worried about their harvested crops and vegetables; they feared if their products would be rotten without exporting them. Most people gave up and locked themselves, hoping for the situation to get better. And students or native people of Manipur staying in different parts of the country or abroad are worried about how they would tackle such a critical time. Most importantly, the young generations or the youth’s conditions worsen from stresses due to academic problems. Many of them are not able to have physical interactions with loved ones. Many of them are homesick or even missing family members staying far away from them. Students are getting bored and tired without friends and teachers as physical classes and schools are shut down. They are stressed and missing outdoors. Many families are scattered; frontline warrior’s families are in grief due to fear of losing their loved ones. Covid patients and their family members, mistreated by their localities, are facing various indignations. Well! Most people have hard times getting two meals a day and are worried about dealing with every necessity that arises every day or in emergencies. Indeed, just mentioning or hearing the term Covid-19 exhaust every people. However, in the latest updates, it is also noted that nations are having problems burying and burning down dead bodies due to excessive rise in mortality rate and shortages of fallow lands.
How are the responses by the government and others to the pandemic?
It is very consoling to see how the governments are responding in the wake of this pandemic. The governments are taking up several measures to deal with the situation and protect their citizens from being infected. When Covid-19 was first detected in Manipur, testing centres were set up at entry points and various locations by the government. Covid care centres were also set up, and curfews and lockdowns were imposed in various parts of the state. They also provided free tests for native people returnees. Unlike before now that vaccinations have been launched, they also urged and encouraged the people to get vaccinated. Earlier, when the situation was getting worse, after intense discussions with leaders, they urged to close down the main market, which would have become hotspots for the virus. They also declared places packed with many patients as containment zones and took up various necessary precautions. They urged everyone to follow SOP guidelines given by Health Department. To console and aid the disturbed minds of native people or students staying abroad, they helped them returned to our state free of cost. They launched various apps to assist them. They informed the people to wear masks, use sanitizers, maintain distances, and avoid standing in crowded places. They provided essentials food items and also face masks, sanitizers, etc. Many MLAs, organisations, NGOs, political leaders, and renowned persons also provided aid (dals, potatoes, oils, etc., or other commodities) to those under the poverty line or who are in need. Such activities were seen at various levels such as leikais, districts, and state levels. Many helped migrant workers to return to their native places safely. No offenses, but I think that sending migrant workers to their native place and accepting returnees and lack of proper facilities may also be some reasons why the virus rapidly spread in our country in general and state in particular. In memory of their parents, children or relatives, or dear and loved ones, some people distributed aids in any way possible. Education departments and officials also launched various apps that are helpful for the students. Attempts were made to transmit online teaching of the school syllabus. There were also attempts to provide facilities to unfortunate students to learn through TV or radios or internet and social platforms. Frontline healthcare workers, policemen, journalist, hawkers, and many more will always be appreciated for their selfless and valuable contributions to the motherland. Entertaining programmes and channels that helped the people fighting difficult times are also commendable.
How does it affect the students in Manipur?
Well, like other sectors, the educational sector has also been affected immensely. It, directly or indirectly, affected both the learning and teaching communities. They were left with no option but disorganised and standstill. Important exams, interviews, and competitions were either postponed or cancelled. Meanwhile, not all students get the golden opportunities to learn via online classes. Some students cannot afford to own smartphones to join online classes, which are the only available substitute for learning. Many could not attend online classes due to poor internet service. The students who could join the classes also have hard times grasping knowledge. Some could barely manage to understand with the help of their parents, who have little educational backgrounds. Most students have lost their academic year during the pandemic. While a person is successful if he/she had grasped the basic knowledge from attending classes, it is heart-breaking when youths are passing off their academic years without attending regular classroom teachings. Researches claimed that more than half of the student population suffers from stress, loss of sleep, boredom, and many disorders due to the concern for academic results, shutting down of physical classes, and missing interaction with friends, teachers, and loved ones. It may also be noted that students learn more and better if they attend regular classroom teachings and are in with the natural surrounding. These are temporarily impossible. Instead, they are compelled to rely on learning from the display screens of phones and laptops without understanding anything. They missed playing outdoors. Many became dull as the saying goes, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” They also missed sharing their thoughts and talents and performing in school events like sports meets, teacher’s day, etc. Online classes cannot be a better substitute. There is always a charm and sweetness in learning and interaction inside classrooms, even if a particular topic or lecture might be boring or no matter how it was taught. Interestingly, many students claimed that even the most boring class will now be fun in schools, instead of the most exciting topic in online classes. This shows how much students are eager and hoping to have normal school days again.
What needs to be done by and for the students?
Online learning apps should be utilised to the fullest by students. The apps should be made more attractive, interesting, and fun to use for students to read to enjoy and understand them. Parents can find various interesting ways to make their children learn and cope with their boredom and stress. Students should be served healthy and eye-catching meals. Thanks to numerous committees and organisations, students can participate in online competitions and explore new ideas, experiences, and knowledge. Students can use these opportunities to prepare themselves to become better and fluent for the future instead of remaining idle and wasting valuable time. As for students attending online classes, they should concentrate on and clear doubts with concerned teachers; they can also ask for help from parents with little educational backgrounds. Unfortunate students, if possible, can learn from platforms provided by the government such as radios, TVs, etc. Every student should practice self-reading as it is the most effective way of learning. The government and school authorities can provide more convenient facilities so that nobody feels indignant.
Covid-19 is not something we can chase away with chants, rallies, and protests. It has to be overcome by following SOP guidelines issued by the Health Departments of the state. Everyone should stay indoors, avoid stepping out of home unnecessarily, use masks and hand sanitizers, and maintain social distancing. People should find ways to obtain stress-free mental health during the pandemic through pleasant communications with loved ones, maintaining a healthy routine and hygiene, watching out for the latest updates, remaining calm and focus on warding off panics, and asking for help if needed. Everyone can stay healthy through fun indoor games. Recently, vaccines have been launched. We should get vaccinated under various schemes provided by the government for faster and better recoveries and return to the normal world we once lived in. Let’s be like educated humans, thereby showing empathy, consoling, and encouraging one another instead of demotivating and harassing infected patients. Instead of mourning over negative consequences, let’s remind ourselves of positive outcomes as well like—during the pandemic people realized the values of loved ones, getting to do things they and many more. Let’s not be too immersed in it yet, not taking it lightly either. Let’s remember; we still have a long way to go and never give up. And as a lesson we learned from the pandemic, let’s be concerned about the environment by planting trees, saving water and electricity, minimum uses of fuels, and believing in sustainable development to avoid hardships in the future again! Last but not least, until everything returns to normal, let’s pray and hope for each other with our own beliefs.
Miss Lhingneilam Touthang (Anju), daughter of Tonglal Touthang and Tinnu Touthang, of Langol Housing Complex, Type-2, B-31, is a class X student, St. Savio School. This essay won the third prize in the competition organised by the Campaign for Peace & Democracy (Manipur) with the support of KanglaOnline, Yaol Publishing (London), journal Beyond the Horizon, and Gateway Trading Academy Imphal.)