Playing and spending time with his friends, going to school every day with enthusiasm, having randomised visits to relative’s place, and going with family for outings, all these are the things of the past for that small boy who loves to manifest dreams in his small world, living his life to the fullest away from all the tensions of this world and brewing new ideas every day in his mind.
Today, when an invisible enemy(COVID-19) has wreaked havoc all around the world, we are wondering how will the post-COVID world look like, wondering how the global economy as a whole and national economy, in particular, will survive, but none of us pays heed to the effect this Pandemic is having on those hundreds of thousands of Children(our future generation) across the globe.
IMPACT ON CHILDREN
With a sudden blow, people are locked-in to their houses, plying on roads and all social activities have been banned, the smaller-ones who know nothing much about this unprecedented situation are bearing the brunt of the situation. With nowhere to go outside, Children are frustrated living with their parents all the time, who in turn are struggling to take care of them. With everyone locked inside the houses, a feeling of suffocation has started, with each and every moment looking dull for the Children to spend the whole day at home, due to which they are feeling prisoned with their freedom being taken away.
As not being able to go to school, use of digital platforms for educational purposes are promoted. Educational institutions are conducting online classes for their students. These digital mediums are in the availability of children from well-off families, but the children from “Digitally poor” families will lag behind. Studies suggested that long holidays contribute to loss of academic achievement among children from low-income families. As classes are conducting online, these Children will lose a substantial part of their curriculum and will lag behind their peers academically. Adding to this, lower internet availability (36 percent in 2019) and gender-gap, will add to the existing problems.
According to a recent report by India Child Protection Fund, there is a surge of about 95% on a famous Porn website Pornhub of Indians searching for videos related to “Child Porn” during the period between March 24-26, With online cyber-crimes and child abuse cases rising steeply in the current times. This shows the increasing vulnerability of these children and teenagers regarding the sexual crimes against them behind the doors in the Lockdown period.
As it is evident, whenever an unprecedented situation occurs, the citizens from lower-strata suffer the most. With a plausible Economic Recession, this section of people will face the maximum brunt of the current trend.
Loss of job, uncertainty about food are some of the problems, which will add to the problem of Poverty and Malnutrition. As per a recent report,
“Malnutrition, Poverty and food insecurity may escalate in the developing countries around the world due to the rapid spread of coronavirus”.
With forced Lockdown, the existing schemes like Mid-day meal scheme, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Matrutwa Vandana Yojana etc., has been stalled which increased the problems for the younger Children, Lactating mothers and pregnant women. All this amid woes of hunger, with Global Hunger Index 2019, showing a serious level of hunger in India.
It is now evident that India’s Healthcare system is fragile, and Coronavirus has added an extra burden to it. Surely, it will exacerbate the problem with stalled vaccination programmes against diseases like Polio, Hepatitis etc, for the younger children. The advances made by aggressive health programmes sponsored by The GOI in these areas will suffer a setback.
THE WAY FORWARD
The fight against this Pandemic can be won only with free-flow of credible information and transparency. If parents will feel empathetic with their children, and explain the graveness of the situation and need for physical distancing, it will help them understand its efficacy better and will help in letting-off all the feelings of frustration. Also letting them indulge in creative activities can help the children to pass their time creatively while adding an asset to their existing skills.
Helping the Children from vulnerable sections or socio-economic poor sections, by providing summer/winter schools classes to them for compensating their lag mainly due to disruption from COVID-19. Organising classes for smaller groups of Children by taking the help of NGOs and Civil-Society groups can help. Remote learning is not all about using Digital platforms only, but the main goal is to reach the maximum number of students which can be done by starting classes on TVs, Radio channels and through SMSes like the West Bengal is doing, which can help a lot in this regard. Continuing onto the mid-day meal scheme for hot-cooked food for Children with the help of Anganwadi workers will encourage them again to attend the classes at the same time helping the authorities to mitigate the effect of malnutrition and problem of Hunger, as the states such as Delhi, West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh are doing away with this problem by taking the cognizance.
Combating the increasing digital crime against Children can only be done away through extreme state surveillance, also setting-up a communication channel for direct reporting of these offences as well as separate counselling centres to help the children can help mitigate this problem.
The problem of Healthcare can only be combated with the intervention of the State, taking the help of ground workers like ASHA can help by again starting the stalled process of vaccination in rural and secluded areas. Ramping up the infrastructure in the healthcare sector is a long-term solution to this problem.
The coronavirus is an unwanted guest we all have, but as there is a saying that “Every difficulty is an opportunity in disguise“, this unprecedented situation is, therefore, an alarm to all of us to work on the loopholes in our society, and prepare ourselves for more such situations ahead. The world post-COVID will be a lot more different, and the faster we reconfigure, the faster we can cope up from its effects. This episode will teach us a lot about the ways we used to live, which will help us to change our ways of living, and shifting our policies to make a sustainable world for our coming generations because every child longs for and deserves a decent world.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Eastern Herald.