Fatigued, frustrated, disgusted….That is the state I am in at present. I pen this down at the end of the day with the sheer fatigue of six continuous online lectures with two hours of coaching classes amounting to a total of eight long hours of online classes in a day. This is at a stage when many of my close relatives are affected by covid and I lay couped up in a small room, glued in my own virtual world. This is not my story alone, this is the story of millions and millions of young minds who have to undergo this almost imposed torture every day with absolute disregard for the circumstances that we are living in today.
Hours of online classes leave students fatigued.
Crude, shocking, and apathetic, isn’t it? That is exactly the string of adjectives that befit this imbroglio. The absolute insensitivity of the University administrations and the sheer reluctance with which it is treating both its staff and students in the hour of an unprecedented pandemic is unimaginable, unfortunate, and highly abominable. This constant pressure of the course and the rush of deadlines have failed to obscure the gravity of the psychological state of the students and the staff, reducing the issue of stakeholders’ welfare to absolute rhetoric.
Imagine continuing to be bogged down by the upcoming semester exams when one of your closest kin has just passed away, imagine juggling between part-time jobs and online classes to secure the financial security of the family, imagine millions of such dire conditions of students suffering mutedly in myriad circumstances without any hope for redressal. This further starkens the apathy of the education sector and its failure to ameliorate its main beneficiaries’ interests, leading to more stress and deteriorating mental health.
Ananki Banerjee, a first-year student at Heritage College, Kolkata, reveals, “My college is considerate enough to excuse any student if he/she or if any of their family members are suffering from Covid (provided we mail to the authorities regarding our problem with a proper Medical Test Report). This is indeed a good measure but what about the others who are not in the mental state to continue with the regular work? Who has lost someone close? Everything does not happen after testing positive right! And many of us are not able to express what we are going through because there is no one to listen or even to understand.”
Moreover, the intersectional nature of oppression and mental harassment and torment that one goes through further deepens the malice of an already disparate education sector. A Down to Earth survey of 2019 shows that female students were 1.83 times more likely than male students to indicate problems associated with mental health. Additionally, the multifaceted challenges of caste and economic backgrounds cumulatively worsen the psychological space of the stakeholder because of their vulnerability across several fronts.
Financial insecurities due to massive job losses as well as family issues have an endearing impact on the minds of the students especially in these times when they are compelled to spend considerable time near their family members. Hence, if the family atmosphere is obnoxious, oppressive, and unstable, its plight on the students is reverberated prominently, compounded by their online fatigue. Swastika Ghatak, a first-year student of the Bhawanipore Education Society recounts, “It sometimes gets really exhausting.. with all these online classes, not being able to talk to anyone or see anyone, no smile on any faces, losing loved ones, family issues, etc. These things are sometimes mentally enervating.”
Sohini Chandra, who is currently pursuing Biotechnology from SRM University Chennai says, “Mental health is really getting affected in this pandemic. We, the students have to cope up with it because no one else will understand what we are going through. Right now my semester exams have started, so it is already a big headache for me. Along with it, I’m also saddened by the devastating news around. It is quite difficult to concentrate on studies these days. The professors of my college try their best to teach even in these trying times and even if they ask us to attend class apart from our normal class timings, we try to cooperate with them.”
Another crucial aspect that comes to the fore here is the paucity of access to mental health resources even in these tenuous circumstances plaguing our universities. Though few colleges have been taking a few measures to allay this problem by the provision of free online counselors like St Xavier’s College(Autonomous) Kolkata while some other institutions have started regular online mental well-being therapies like that of Bhawanipore Education Society.
But the harrowing disparity in its access remains largely engulfed and unbridged. In such scenarios, several individuals, societies, and independent associations have taken the lead in reaching out to stressed-out students in accessing mental health resources through online platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Organizations like Girl Up Saarthi and Global Youth among many others have gone further to conduct sessions with therapists and psychologists to ease this tremendous distress. A very recent initiative undertaken by LSR is the LSR-RAHAT where students can discuss both academic and socio-economic issues with the faculty members.
For professors, the shift from their traditional classroom method to the online arena has been a hard paradigm shift.
The excessive burden on the faculty too with this paradigm shift to virtual education has taken a very severe toll on their mental health, especially when their close relatives started getting affected. One of the former Sociology professors of DU, who preferred to remain anonymous confessed, “I mean as a teacher my experience through this pandemic, like most people out there have been mediated by the 14-inch screen of the laptop where I’ve spent most of my time in past one and a half years. I would say that it has taken a very heavy toll on my mental health; the constant overflow of information on the virus in social media, lack of human touch in my everyday interactions with students, peers, and even strangers for that matter, everything has just contributed to the recurring bouts of anxiety I was already suffering from.”
Thus it can be easily surmised in retrospect that the state of mental health has absolutely reached its nadir in the light of the bourgeoning pressure of the curriculum on the students and the faculty at varying levels with additional factors often intersecting at cross ends. This is further complicated by the transgression of a severe Covid-19 wave that has reduced the very purpose of education to mere rhetoric.
The grappling situations under which the stakeholders are living are absolutely uncalled for. Lastly, I would like to conclude with the hope that henceforth I might be able to put my pen to paper with the blossoming home of a teenager and not be drawn into this drudgery of psychological torment!