It was three years ago on January 30, 2020 that India reported its first Covid19 case. After three waves of the infection, which claimed 5.3 lakh lives as per official figures and perhaps much more which were not reported, the pandemic appears to have abated now.
For the last few months only a negligible number of cases have been reported and hopefully the worst is behind us.
The pandemic has left much devastation both in terms of lives lost and loss of jobs besides the unwarranted misery it caused to lakhs of migrants who were left with little choice but to head to their villages, mainly on foot, after the sudden lockdown announced on March 23, 2020.
While total normalcy is yet to be restored as a number of small industry are still to resume business, there are several long lasting consequences of Covid19 which we continue to discover.
One of these, as per studies conducted by medical institutions like the PGI, is the high rate of sudden deaths of young persons who had recovered from a serious bout of Covid19.
One frequently hears of cases where young persons, who had undergone intensive treatment for Covid19, has either died in sleep or has suddenly passed away without giving any prior indication of an impending heart attack. The low immunity levels of some of those who had contracted Covid19 remains a cause of concern.
The pandemic over the last three years has adversely affected various aspects of life but one area where it has left a lasting impact is the education.
According to the latest All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) released by the Education ministry, the critical gains made in closing the gender gap across different undergraduate programmes had suffered a setback during the Covid19 period.
The survey revealed that the number of females for every 100 males enrolled across different Bachelor’s programmes dropped in the academic year 2020-21.
For instance, the percentage of women who had enrolled for B. Com in 2019 was almost the same as that of men but in 2020-21 the ratio came down to 94:100 in favour of men. This trend was reflected in almost all undergraduate programmes ranging from nursing to law to medical education and sciences and fine arts.
The latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) has also confirmed the worst fears about the drop in learning levels – foundational skills in reading and mathematics – which can have a long term impact.
The pandemic also robbed the charm of those who were stepping out of schools for a life in colleges and universities.
Yet the worst sufferers were the toddlers who were to just step into nursery level and primary schooling. It is well known that the brain and intelligence of small children develops very fast during this stage which leaves a life long impact. This stage is also critical for developing social skills and peer learning.
Experts say that children experience a critical period of brain development up to the age of five years. The brain develops more than at any other time in a person’s life during this stage.
The quality of a child’s early experiences and education shape the child’s ability to learn and succeed for a lifetime. While these relationships start at home, they extend to the child’s interactions with peers and with early educators.
The lockdown forced these small children to stay within the confines of homes with little or no interaction with children of their age group. Many became addicted to mobile phones much before others in the same age group had done in the past.
In many cases it might be too late to make amends but It is extremely important that the government lays special emphasis on directing primary schools to tweak the normal syllabus for laying emphasis on developing social and soft skills of the youngsters.
This can be done by organising more social get togethers and outdoor informal activities rather than providing them bookish knowledge.
It is important that experts put their heads together to prepare model directions for primary schools. The Covid19 has hopefully ended but we must try to make up for the huge damage it has left in its wake.
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