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By UNICEF Office, Tamil Nadu
The lockdown has brought several changes to the lives of school-going students, most obvious of which is that schools have been shut and studies temporarily suspended, especially for children who do not have easy access to digital devices and tools and the Internet.
For, Jayapriya, a 16-year-old living in Korukkupet, Tamil Nadu and a student of Standard XI at the Arumugam Nadar School, Tondaiarpet, the fear of the virus is evident—she is worried about her life and rights as a student. “I am afraid of the virus. I love my life”, says Jayapriya. “They say children and elderly people are easily getting affected. So, we must ensure that all children are protected.”
She is aware of preventive measures, such as washing hands frequently and sprinkling an infusion of neem and turmeric as a disinfectant around the house. “Some Ayurvedic medicine was distributed in our area, which we can take if we get an infection”, she says.
At the same time, the lockdown came into effect before Jayapriya could write the last paper of her Standard XI final exam. Her safety from COVID-19 comes at the cost of her peace of mind and security, as well. “I would have been happy if my exams were over. I cannot relax during these holidays. I am not able to study at home. There is no one to clear my doubts.”
Moreover, the restrictions keeping her indoors are impacting her mental health. “I am missing my school life, tuition life and my friends. It is very difficult to stay inside the house all the time. I feel sad. I can’t express how I am feeling.” But she does see one plus point. “I am getting some time to spend with my parents which is a good thing.”
Jayapriya suggests that when schools reopen, they do away with the practice of holding general assemblies or other gatherings, as these would increase the risk of the virus spreading.
Her story, however, underscores just how much rides on our ability to live, breathe and move around freely. For Jayapriya, the lockdown has not just spelled stress, but also a lack of options in terms of activities. Moreover, it lays bare the stark digital divide in India, and the mammoth task cut out in front of us to be able to guarantee education for all if we go digital.