The future of many students is unpredictable. Many are on the edge of dropping out of college. Many colleges of Manipur are performing poorly. There are lagging far behind in comparison to the colleges of others states.
By Wahengbam Chelsea Alanjua Chanu
The covid-19 pandemic has affected people all across the globe. It has engulfed millions of lives, leaving thousands of people in utter poverty. Low-class labours, daily wage workers, and middle-class families are greatly affected. Above and all, people from all sectors and social standards are affected in various manners. Thousands of people lost their jobs. Social, economic, education, health, food, and industrial sectors face new challenges to uplift and balance the loss.
The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic can be discussed on a large scale. However, I would like to emphasize the health and education sectors. The outbreak has raised chaos and dysfunction among the people and health workers. Many non- Covid patients are refused treatment; pregnant women died following Covid-19 procedures. Many other patients faced difficulties in getting treatment in hospitals or private clinics as the health sector is primarily focused on the pandemic. In a developing country like India, with its vast population, the Covid-19 pandemic is another challenge. India, with its half of the population below poverty, is struggling for survival. It has recorded a total of 2.5 crores positive cases and 2.75 lakh deaths. It is unfortunate to see people suffer and die not only because of Covid-19 but also due to poverty.
The education sector has been equally affected by the pandemic. Youth are the future pillars of society. They need to be nourished and molded for a bright future. Unfortunately, all these chances were ruined by the pandemic. The academic structure is greatly affected; the education system needs changes to fit the changing environment. The most effective learning method currently pursued by many institutes is e-learning. E-learning is quite effective for students with great learning patience. But from a different perspective, this hinders one’s self-growth and socialization.
What is Covid-19 pandemic and how does it spread in Manipur?
The Covid-19 pandemic is caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first Covid-19 case of Manipur was a 23-year-old woman from Thangmeiband in Imphal. The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic induced the government to close all possible means of transportation to minimize the spread of the virus. Manipuri students, job seekers, and people residing in different states of India and abroad faced great difficulties. The news of the Manipuri students being harassed and threatened raised the concern of the parents in Manipur. This lets the government mechanize various means to bring back students and workers. Several positive cases were found among the returnees. After that, community transmissions began.
The Manipur government took up several measures to combat the spread of the virus. Malls, markets, restaurants, and all public places were closed. Lockdown and curfew were imposed. Guidelines and SOPs restricted religious ceremonies related to birth, marriage, death, any forms of ritual, and gatherings.
The Covid-19 second wave in India is deadly. The number of positive cases has increased drastically, requiring the government to take up new effective measures against the virus. On April 29, 2021, the Manipur government declared the whole of the Greater Imphal area a containment zone. The Greater Imphal area consists of Imphal West and Imphal East. Further, the government imposed a curfew in seven districts (Imphal West, Imphal East, Bishnupur, Thoubal, Kakching, Churachandpur, and Ukhrul). Local grocery stores and banks were allowed to open only for a few hours on selective days. Most government offices were closed, except for a few selected ones such as banking and postal services.
How does Covid-19 affect the people of Manipur?
The pandemic has greatly affected the people of Manipur. The Khwairamband Bazaar, popularly known as Ima Keithel, is the largest women’s market in South-East Asia. This market serves the economic livelihood of many families. Currently, the market is non-functional under the government’s order to check the spread of coronavirus. This affects not only the economy but also the people who earn their daily bread from the market. Covid-19 is a great challenge for the common people who lost their means of livelihood. Many private institutes, malls, offices, and companies are closed down. The employees lost their jobs. Some are forced to continue their work without the salary for months. Now a question arises! How will they fight for survival? Who will help them from the bottomless pit of poverty? Moreover, due to the closure of local vegetable markets and main markets, many vegetables and fruits were rotted and spoilt. Farmers are facing great difficulties in selling their products. It leads to a price rise.
Non-Covid patients are facing issues of treatment. Almost all government hospitals like RIMS and JNIMS are more focused on Covid-19, even canceling delivery operations. In such a situation, the poor people who cannot afford costly private hospitals face disadvantages in treatments and even consultation. As a matter of precaution, patients without the Covid-19 test reports are not treated. In this hard time with financial problems at peak, the poor people are suffering from multiple disadvantages.
How are the responses by the government and others to the pandemic?
At the onset of the pandemic, the responses of the Manipur government seem to be responsible. But over time, it has shown negligence and inability to control the crisis. On March 24, 2020, fear and panic arose among the people when the first Covid-19 confirmed case was reported of a 23-year-old woman returning from the United Kingdom. After this, there was a steep rise in the number of cases. Relaxation on transport was also a factor. To combat the virus, the government imposed lockdown, containment zones, and public curfews, thereby restricting citizens’ movements. The government issued SOPs, making wearing masks and maintaining social distances mandatory. These actions of the government targeted the ordinary people, which became an issue of violating human rights.
With the rise in the number of cases, to check the spread of the virus among the returnees, quarantine centers were installed in all the districts and localities. People were admitted to it only after the Covid-19 test. Maintenance of the bulk of the returnees was a big challenge for the government; disorganized functionality and incapability were easily noticeable. Complaints and criticism against the government were widely circulated on social media. People were not given proper tests. There was the unavailability of a proper sanitized system. Three to four people or more were let to stay together in the quarantine centers. Food was not reaching on time. There was a shortage of meals. Food was unhygienic food. The problems did not end there. There was a lack of Covid-19 care units due to a rise in the number of cases. Therefore, many positive patients were quarantined and treated at home. It did not affect people with proper houses. But Manipur is a state with many poor people and joint families who could not provide all the necessities required for a positive patient.
The response of the public is also a must. When the first confirmed case was reported, the people became serious and strictly followed SOPs. But with the rise in the number of cases, the fear seemed slowly driven away. Despite the government’s order against large public gatherings, we often witnessed people chatting and freely relaxing in public, breaking all the guidelines. The effectiveness of lockdown and curfew can be seen only in the city areas where police patrols enforced severe actions for lawbreakers. The new guidelines and restrictions greatly affected daily lifestyle and also financial problems. But as citizens of the country, we have to abide by the rules to save more people from further disaster.
How does Covid-19 affect the students of Manipur?
Youths are the future pillars of society. Their contribution to and role in the country is important. The pandemic has a big impact on education and students. With the rapid rise in the number of cases, all institutes, universities, schools, and colleges have been closed. Physical classes have been banned throughout the country. Alternative online classes or e-learning has been encouraged by most institutions. E-learning is effective to only some extent. It requires a student’s patience and attention.
Only some institutes have the privilege of conducting online classes. Most of the institutes have ceased classes for months as there has been a huge drop in income. Further, the number of students attending online classes is low; many in remote areas could not access the internet, and some do not have smart devices. Prolong use of smart devices is harmful to health, mentally and physically. The performance of students in online classes is low. In the name of a class, they divert themselves to other activities. Conducting an online test is ineffective as the students are more advanced in technology than teachers; they often used unfair methods and tricked them. Many teachers are having lots of challenges in taking online classes. Taking advantage of the teacher’s lack of technical skills, students misbehaved, show attitudes, and mock the teachers. Unfortunately, e-learning snatches away student’s opportunities for personal development, interactive ability, self-presentation among the large crowd and huge audience. Most importantly, the practical skills of engineering and medical students could not be achieved through e-learning.
The future of many students is unpredictable. Many are on the edge of dropping out of college. Many colleges of Manipur are performing poorly. There are lagging far behind in comparison to the colleges of others states. University professors seemed to neglect their tasks even after being ordered to take up online classes. There has been no progress. University authority needs to administer this matter more seriously and take into consideration the future of many students.
From the perspective of the Indian education system, the 10th and 12th examinations are important. These important and life-changing examinations were being postponed for months without any knowledge and conclusion.Moreover, while physical classes have been closed down due to the pandemic, no online classes were conducted. Many have raised suggestions. Some wanted students to be promoted to the next standard considering the current situation. Some wanted the exam to be conducted. So, there is a state of confusion among the students and the parents.
What needs to be done by and for the students?
Several steps are needed to be taken up considering the futures of the students. The Indian education system needs complete change to provide continuous education even at the time of nationwide disaster or pandemic like Covid-19. Teachers need a modern approach and technical training to face an unwanted situation with the students. It would be wise to take advantage of this modern technology and upgrade e-learning to another level with new protocols of online classes followed by strict disciplines and regulations.
A solution is also required regarding the 10th and 12th examinations. Yes, because of the current situation conducting an examination is risky. The safety of the students needs to be considered. Promoting the 10th students to the next standard can be considered. But the 12th students cannot be promoted without proper examination as they might take different streams after the examination. As a student, we must learn how to act and control things at the time of difficulties. So, a proper test must be conducted for all the students who are to appear in the examination. New Covid-19 guidelines are to be followed during the examination. Moreover, we as students must act to understanding the situation without causing any problems recklessly.
The human race has faced many disasters and pandemics before; they are not new to us. But, the Covid-19 pandemic has shattered all connectivity and interdependence between people, countries, and even continents. In times like this, there are people working day and night, leaving their families behind, the Covid warriors. The government has failed to control the crisis successfully, but they contribute to ending this pandemic. We, the citizen, must also follow the guidelines strictly to reduce the spread of the virus. The main reason why people break the rules is poverty. They have no means to work, but poverty is killing them. In such a condition, they will likely commit crimes and break the rules. The main difference between other countries and India is that they conduct lockdown after providing people their needs (Canada). India is a large country, and it might be challenging to fulfill all the requirements of the people. But they need to work in an organized manner and, most importantly, honestly. Many organizations have contributed to the Covid-19 relief funds. The government should use it solemnly to treat the patients and help the people. The roles of both the government and the citizens are required to beat Covid-19.
(Wahengbam Chelsea Alanjua Chanu, daughter of Wahengbam Tony Singh and Ngangom Sumita Singha, of Sagolband Tera Bazaar, is a student of B. Sc. 2nd Year, DM College of Sciences, Imphal. This essay was an entry 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.)COVID-19, future of students