Older people and those with underlying medical problems like diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases are more likely to develop serious illnesses. Thus, the best way to prevent it is to be well informed about the virus and follow preventive measures.
By Daisy Longjam
How many does this make? You know, discussion about Covid-19, it’s not going to stop anytime soon. Then let’s discuss something more, something personal “students” there much better! Well, you are not wrong. These two have indeed been discussed before but never between you and me. There’s always a first, right? As people who have faced the problems concerning the two, first hand we happen to be the experts, so let’s see.
Before the discussion of any topic, it is essential that we fully understand the topic concerned. Now, what is this Covid-19, which seems to be everyone’s concern nowadays? No surprise there since we have been co-existing unwillingly for nearly a year and a half. Yes, it is the pandemic people across the globe that people have been fighting since early last year. It has claimed millions of lives, caused immeasurable finance, health, socio-economic crisis many more. And it did a complete 180, in reality, we used to know. What we now accept as normal was considered different, weird even just a year ago. And a section which is as affected as the rest of the world is the one the people refer to as students. The mentioned section is probably the only one who honestly was a little no, a reasonable amount excited about the shutdown of the place branded school on account of the risks of the pandemic. No more introductions needed for students; we all know better.
Then, how are these two related? Because of the pandemic, about 70% of our everyday, everything was put on a hiatus, in which education was also included. No school almost means no education. Yes, there are other ways to educate the students. However, throughout the decades, the one way education has been imparted is through classes and interaction. And even in this, only 25% of the students will be paying attention, and the rest will be in their own world. Honestly, the only reason most students got involved with books was school, the fear of the principal, the stares of the teachers, and the competition of their peers. Now that the chain which bounded them is gone. All hell broke loose. The last time students saw their books must be months ago. Yes! There are those who work hard, but they are only a few. Thus, Covid-19 has deeply affected the students in a rather bad way.
What is Covid-19 Pandemic and how does it spread in Manipur?
Covid-19 has indeed meant a lot of things to different peoples. But bottom line, it is the pandemic that took the entire world by storm. It all started in the winter of December 2019 in a city called Wuhan in China, where there was a sudden spread of a virus, “Coronavirus” that infected many people. This was only the beginning. It claimed victims in country after country leaving chaos, death, sickness everywhere it went. In February 2020, the WHO gave this curse a name “Covid-19: CO for corona, VI for virus and D for disease, and 19 for 2019 the year it began.”
The virus leads to a respiratory illness that can be transmitted from droplets of bodily fluids such as mucus and saliva and can enter through the mouth, nose, or eyes. Once it enters, the person will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatments. However, older people and those with underlying medical problems like diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases are more likely to develop serious illnesses. Thus, the best way to prevent it is to be well informed about the virus and follow preventive measures.
Now, China is our neighboring country, so it would be no surprise if the virus reached us. But the first confirmed positive case of Manipur on March 24, 2020 was a 23-year-old girl Vimi Ningombam who was tested positive on return from the United Kingdom and was treated in the JNIMS. She is a resident of Thangmeiband Lourung Purely Leikai, Imphal. At that time, the pandemic hadn’t spread as much, and thankfully she recovered. But gradually, India, no different from others, was consumed by the virus. Additionally, the people of the state who lived outside were reported to have returned carrying the virus. Then, the positive cases boomed and increased in thousands, and now it is in a crucial state.
How does it affect the peoples?
That is a great question with an endless answer. Why? It’s not because we are human and we like to complain, and the reason is yes! The Covid has created innumerable health problems. But it’s not only that. It also created financial, socio-economic crises and many more. It altered the very reality we know. The normal we knew was turned inside out, and we were forced to adapt to however the world was changing.
On a deeper level, leaving the world aside when the pandemic hit our state, lockdowns/ curfew was immediately imposed. People were asked to stay home without the knowledge of how to deal with the situation. Everything happened in such a hurry that no one barely understood anything, and the virus did not come alone. It brought with it fear, anxiety and panic. What followed was the food crisis and the socio-economic crisis. Simply put, everything was in utter chaos.
How are the responses by the government and others to the pandemic?
The very first response by the government, as mentioned earlier, was the complete lockdown of the state. The priority was to ensure that the virus does not become widespread. The reason being the government knew how the virus was spread and how highly contagious it was. They had knowledge about the virus, but this was yet to be passed on to the public, and even if it did, only a few really knew about it. They imposed the lockdown because they could not risk any increase in the number of cases. They further informed the masses about the virus and advised them to remain indoors, avoid crowds and follow all necessary preventive measures. Almost all activities came to a halt. The government tried its best to ensure that at least the necessities were fulfilled. Besides the medical crisis, they had to deal with the socio-economic crisis, including the people’s panic and anxiety, which was not because of the fear of the virus but that the lockdowns were extending and the food rations were running out. But there was hope. Along with the government, NGOs, other organizations, and people came out to offer philanthropic acts. That includes educating people about the virus, handing out necessities, etc., to help calm the masses. At a glance, we can see that the response was made as a whole, together with both the government and the people.
Focusing on education as per our topic of discussion, the government’s response and the members of the academic bodies have done a lot more than they are given credit for. One of the main things the government has tried to ensure its continuation without disturbance is education for all ages and classes, as it concerns the future life of the students and the future of society and state. Regarding this, rather than just waiting for the pandemic to be over and resume opening of schools, safeguarding the lives of all students, teachers, and non-teaching staffs learning through online classes at home is highly encouraged. It indeed does very little and would hardly cover the syllabus as done in schools. But it is worth the try. We cannot change or break the habit of years overnight; it will take time. Many official government websites for education, books, explanations, etc., for each standard have been launched. Various platforms such as radio have been used to reach those students who are not connected by the internet. All India Radio education programs have partly achieved high-quality education at low cost, even covering the areas without internet coverage and those without mobile or smartphones. By far, it seems to be doing pretty well. YouTube, one of the most visited apps on the internet, even there teachers uploaded their explanations, videos on expected questions, etc. There was dubbing of videos for the convenience of the students. Literally, any topic, any lesson of any class can be found here. Through online classes using zoom, google meet, etc. the schools and teachers have tried their level best to reach out to the students. Considering the inability to hold physical classes like before for more than a year, a reduction of the syllabus has been done. Promotion of some classes has been taken into consideration. Now, all that is left is for the person at the receiving end to be as responsive and as enthusiastic as the givers. Is it working though?
How does it affect the students in Manipur?
Speaking of students, how are they the main characters of our discussion dealing with the situation? How are they affected by it? We know that for a transaction to work, both parties should work together and see eye to eye. We have seen the efforts made by the teachers and the government. Now let’s take a look at the students.
A little open secret is that most students, not all (because it would be wrong to those few who genuinely love studies), were happy, excited even on the news of the lockdown, which meant no school. Like who doesn’t love a break from school? The pandemic has indeed taken a great toll on students’ lives, their studies, mental health, and all. Staying home means no studies, increased hours of laziness, and idleness. Like most people now, students have been living an unchanging lifestyle for the past year, which includes only necessities such as eat, sleep, relief, etc., which, sadly education is not a part of. Similar to everyone, students in Manipur had a hard time adapting to the change. For decades, schools were how we learned our lessons. Even then, what was taught in class with face-to-face interaction with the teachers was hard to take in, and most students seemed to be busy in their own world. Thus, online classes, e-learning, radio, and other such means are proven to be poor substitutes. Students nowadays may be on their phones 24/7, and there is very little chance that they are studying. But does all these mean they don’t care about their future or that they are not trying? That would be very wrong. They may be young, but they understand the gravity of the situation. Besides the academics they lost, which would negatively impact their future, their mental health is concerning. As I’ve said before, they are trying to adapt to the pressuring changes. Missing out on even one class is confusing enough. So, squeezing a year’s worth in a month’s online class to complete the so-called reduced syllabus is ridiculous. Expecting them to understand everything through the least amount of interaction is mentally very tasking. Another thing is, adolescents are overthinkers. They are very unstable and mentally fragile. It may not seem like it, but most of them now are very worried about their future as the numbers in their age are increasing with the addition of unused years. Even in a video game, you can’t skip levels. Life is quite similar. They have lost nearly two years of their life. So, when they are promoted, which would be the last straw if the pandemic worsened; all the confusion, difficulties that followed on entering a new world would be 100 times as hard. Another thing, for the 10th and 12th students in the certificate they would carry for a lifetime, it would be written in bold “promoted.” Their credibility would be questioned at every step of the way by others, even themselves because humans are not as kind as they are portrayed not to others, not to themselves. And there are those who worry and over-analyze the situation. They even question if they would survive this. Either way, it gives birth to a batch of depressed souls, which is unhealthy for society. Thus, they are unable to focus on their studies. Who could blame them? Would you work hard for a future you can’t have? It is a fact we have lost more peers to depression than the virus.
What needs to be done by and for the students?
So, what needs to be done by the students about this sickening situation? Students should help each other by talking, interacting and ensure none of us goes down that path. Secondly, use and appreciate the efforts made by the government, teachers, etc. Learn to reach out to others for help instead of bottling up everything. Be calm and collective. Have positivity while you are at. Pay a visit to the books you abandoned months ago at least once a day. Remember, the government and teachers cannot cater to you personally. They do only as a whole. So, the best option is to look out for yourself and help yourself.
What needs to be done for the students? Almost everything that needs to be done has already been considered and done by the government and the authorities. It is impossible to look after each student individually. But the teachers once in a while and the parents can often check up on their students and children if they are okay and if what is being taught is understood. As such, for them to not be pressured but be encouraged and assured. This would help the students rather than the constant nagging and ridicule.
Thus, such is the relation between Covid-19 and students. It’s quite a toxic one because the pandemic is refusing to leave. The stay home no school cycle is addictive. Most students wouldn’t give it up that easy. But on a serious note, the pandemic is here to stay, and the virus is evolving. So, we should also start adapting. Like Charles Darwin said, “Survival of the fittest.” Everyone should have a positive yet realistic view of the situation. The academic situation is severe but can be changed if both parties co-operate and work together, like the two sides of the coin, hand in hand.
Now, we understood the impact of the pandemic on the students and how they felt about it; not the stereotypical excited side but also the depressed vulnerable side.
Keeping everything aside, you are indeed a rare one. Not many read the opinion of a teenager with such rapt attention.
Dear adult, sadly, our journey together ends here. Remember to laugh and live. This young stranger bids her farewell.
(Daisy Longjam, daughter of Longjam Dhanabir Singh and Sorokhaibam Ganga Devi, of Keishamthong Longjam Leirak, Imphal, is a student of XII Commerce, T.G. Higher Secondary School, 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, best way forward