Reforming the system for protecting the mental health of students

The coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown that followed changed the lives of children and adults alike.

In a pre-corona world, children would leave home in the morning and be back by the afternoon, after which they would rush to coaching classes. They were busy throughout the day, and when children were busy parents were happy. 

When parents see their children doing one thing after another and living a hectic life, they fall for the illusion that the child is preparing for a successful life, that this hard work and this toiling will bear fruits. 

What parents don’t realize is that children don’t enjoy this hectic routine. They may enjoy certain parts, like meeting friends and playing games, but there’s a lot that’s not fun.

They have to study subjects they don’t like and do things they wouldn’t be doing if they had a choice. They have to wake up early in the morning and get ready for school, sit through some really dull and unengaging classroom sessions on hard benches for hours together. 

Children in school constantly look for ways to escape the rut. They want relief and they want some fun.  As a result, they do things that the school doesn’t approve of. They disturb the teacher. They break the school rules, they daydream, they are constantly planning things they would do after school. 

Don’t you think they would rather do something they find interesting?

For example, if a child is interested in English literature, why can’t they spend more time reading and studying literature instead of sweating over a complicated math sum? That child can do a simpler version of math. 

The system that doesn’t allow them to study more of what they like is not just depriving them of a meaningful life but also teaching them to live half-heartedly.

They learn that you have to do things that make little sense to you just because someone with authority tells you to do so. Just imagine, this happening for years and years together and the impact it may have on the person’s mindset and personality. 

Students commit suicide, they suffer from anxiety and depression; they turn to drugs; they are confused about career and relationships; the cause of all these issues somewhere lies in all those years spent doing things they didn’t want to do. 

So many of them don’t have any first-hand experience of doing things they love doing. All they know is how to go against their will and do what the society approves of. 

Thankfully, because of the lockdown, children don’t have to go to school. However, the problem now is what do they do with all the free time they have at their disposal. All this time they depended on the school to tell them what to do. 

Imagine how different it would have been if every child had a personal project; something other than academics, something that truly made sense to them. It could be anything from creating an app, learning to cook, learning to write well, or working on a science project.

If they had been working on something they were passionate about, the lockdown wouldn’t have affected them the way it has.

It’s not that children don’t have hobbies or interests. Schools, to a very great extent, have taken away their ability to think for themselves, to execute their ideas, and live life with a kind of confidence that only comes from doing things independently. 

Children study for grades. They work hard to be successful as per the standards set by others. They have got used to a life where they are told to do things, where they need an external evaluation system to prove themselves. 

We have also seen a rise in online education. Schools have resorted to online teaching; they have also conducted exams online. This can be the beginning of a new era in education. We had mistaken schooling for education. Now, we know that education can take place without going to school. 

There are new platforms coming up to teach children coding. One thing that’s worth noticing is how to promote its platform, one of these companies, is selling the idea that if your child learns to code, they may be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. No doubt they are doing it to attract customers.

Parents need to understand that coding has endless possibilities. Anyone can use it. Let children learn to code, let them explore. Let them do it for fun, and if they create something beautiful out of it, then there is nothing like that. Just don’t expect them to create a multi-million-dollar app or a social networking site.

We are all waiting for things to get back to normal. When that happens, are we going to forget the lessons we have learned during the lockdown? Are we going to allow our children to go back to the system that damages them and lose their originality once again? 

A big change like that will take time. We are aware of the pace at which things move in our country. Before we see things moving, let us ask questions like:

Why can’t school become a learning center with few rigidities and more freedom to explore less emphasis on uniformity and more on what makes a person unique? Why can’t we have schools that work on the holistic development of the child with the aim to prepare them to deal with real-world problems? 

Some schools had already started with a life skills curriculum. A lot of them had also hired counselors. But that’s not enough. The focus was still on academics and not overall development. 

As adults, we know the importance of life skills like decision making, regulating our emotions, maintaining healthy relationships, and effective communication. Life skills education ensures that children learn those skills while in school. 

Now, let’s just imagine a school where children study the subjects they want to study, a school where they learn things by doing, where they learn life skills and put into practice what they have learned. 

Just imagine that by the time a person steps out of the school, they know for sure what they would like to do with their lives. 

The law of demand and supply works everywhere. Parents need to be aware of the problems with the current system and demand a new one. Parents need to stop focusing on academic success and focus on what their child wants to do.

Dear parents, please stop worrying about your child’s future. They will definitely have a bright future if you help them figure out things. 

For that, you got to let them explore. Just play the role of a guide. Listen to them and trust them. The world has changed and is constantly changing. It’s no longer the world you grew up in.

I am a mental health professional, raising awareness about mental health. Please help me by sharing this article and subscribing to my blog.