The COVID 19 pandemic has brought about a drastic change on how students live their lives.
The shutting down of schools, compounded by the associated public health and economic crises, posed major challenges to our students and their teachers. Apart from living in the fear of contracting the deadly virus, we have been restricted from interacting with each other at social events. Employees were advised to work from home while schools and universities diverted to online teaching. This had a huge impact on students’ lives where their routine was consequently disrupted and they were bound from living a ‘normal life’.
Almost none of the students would say that the pandemic was a positive for them as students experienced several changes due to the pandemic. A study conducted at the A&M Texas University suggests that there was a 71% increase reported when it comes to stress and anxiety levels amongst students during the COVID 19 outbreak. A culmination of different thoughts contributed to this increase including the fear of losing a relative or a friend, a difficulty in concentrating, a disruptive sleeping pattern and decreased social interaction due to social distancing.
Apart from this, students were also concerned with their academic performance, as schools and universities did not decrease the workload on students, but rather increased it. Institutions switched the way they assess students where most exams where converted to take home assignments. This increased the workload immensely where for some, the amount of assignments they had to carry out doubled.
Consequently, students reverted to various coping mechanisms to deal with the changes they were faced with. Some students saw this as an opportunity to start becoming more physically active, going for long runs or simply doing a workout at home. The campaigns promoting at home workouts and staying active during the quarantine period definitely helped to motivate people to start working out.
Not all students, however, adopted this coping mechanism. A significant number of students reverted to alcohol consumption and drug use during this horrid time. This was highlighted in a study conducted by the Faculty of Social Wellbeing at the University of Malta, where it found that university students were negatively impacted by the pandemic. This suggests that student counselling and student advisory services, should do more in trying to reach out while being prepared to face a significant increase in cases related to substance use, stemmed from the negative emotional states during the pandemic.
A relatively simple yet significant outcome of the pandemic was that our public education system was not built, nor prepared to cope with an unprecedented situation like this. The institutions lacked the sufficient structure needed to sustain effective teaching and learning during quarantine and to provide the safety net supports that many children receive in school. The unstable situation regarding the opening of schools and institutions during the pandemic, and the lack of planning by the Maltese Government when it comes to providing teachers with the adequate structure to provide an enhanced learning experience, left the students in the middle of an educational chaos.
As one could see, the pandemic brought a barrage of negative effects on the students and authorities must prioritise students in all situations. As we start to see light the end of the tunnel, authorities, institutions and even the government should be more considerate towards the students and make sure that they are taken care of both on an educationally but more importantly mentally. After all, students of today will become the workforce of tomorrow, and taking care of them in this difficult period, will definitely be beneficial for the future of our country.
(Statistic) Copyright ©Changwon Son, Sudeep Hegde, Alec Smith, Xiaomei Wang, Farzan Sasangohar. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org/ ), 03.09.2020.
(Picture) ©Angelina Bambina – Adobe Stock. com