With India seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases, students left stressed – from exam anxiety to future prospects

Families are getting infected every day and it is creating mental trauma among students. Keeping them motivated is becoming difficult for school and coaching teachers.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a lasting impact on almost everyone. From losing family members and loved ones to the anxiety caused due to the surge in cases – lives have been deeply impacted.

For students, the anxiety has caused deep distress – the constant worry about exams being rescheduled as well as the fear of what lies ahead. “How will colleges assess new students during admissions? Will colleges abroad admit Indian students? When will normal classes resume?” Board exams, semester exams, entrance tests – almost all assessments have been delayed amid the second wave in the country.

“The decision on most exams will be taken after reviewing the situation on June 1 but the conditions do not appear to be very conducive to conduct exams. The whole academic schedule will likely get moved to September like last year. However, the current situation is hampering students’ mental health to a great extent,” said Saurabh Kumar, academic director, Vidyamandir Classes.

Psychological impact of postponement 

Sonali Patel, 20, has been waiting to appear for the NEET-UG 2021, which is now scheduled to be conducted on August 1. However, the application process has yet to begin. “Most people look at it as extra time to prepare better for the exams, but it needs to be understood that we are exhausted. Students are going through mental instability and constant self-doubts during this period of deferment,” she says.

A resident of Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, Sonali says there not have been proper coaching or classroom learning for over a year now and it is having an impact on students’ morale leading to a lack of motivation. “Students are often surrounded by Covid-induced anxiety and the academic concerns only make it worse.”

Kumar says he has received messages from more than 25 students in the past month, who have lost either one or both of their parents to Covid-19. “Families are getting infected every day and it is creating mental trauma among students. Keeping them motivated is becoming difficult for school and coaching teachers,” he said.

Samir Parikh, Director of Fortis National Mental Health Program and Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Healthcare, said children have handled the pandemic very well but the environment deeply impacts their mental health.

“Children are behind shut indoors. They need to constantly interact with friends and peers to take care of their mental health. But, in this unprecedented situation, safety is the utmost priority. Senior students have worries about exams and their careers, but they need to understand that they are not suffering alone. All the students are impacted. Having concerns about future and entrance exams is only natural,” Parikh told indianexpress.com.

Concerned parents  

Seventeen-year-old Arnav Kalgutkar suffers from Asperger syndrome and is a class 12 student at Suryadutta National School, Pune. His mother, Anuprita Kalgutkar, says, “Is it so difficult for esteemed educationists and boards to take cognizance of the current situation or are we going to yet again establish ourselves as an exam-obsessed nation for which class 12 board exams are the most critical criteria for the culmination of school education?”

Yasir Hamid Bhat, Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology, University of Kashmir, told indianexpress.com that there is no point in conducting any exams if students are not learning.

“The 2019 and 2020 intake batches have not attended a traditional offline class in Kashmir. Education is not just about literacy but about grooming and developing a strong character. Conducting exams in online mode is a big blow to the quality of invigilation. Amid the constant postponement of exams, students are often questioning the purpose of such an education as students have no opportunities to entertain themselves and are sitting at home. It is better to delay the academic cycle than kill students’ aspirants altogether,” Bhat said.

Parikh advises students and parents to accept the situation and adjust their mindsets accordingly to minimize negative effects on one’s mental health. “We all need to first understand the situation and find an alternative. But, if the alternative does not exist, like the exams cannot be conducted in the current situation, then we only need to find ways to feel better and divert our energy. Adults need to specifically understand that their worries and overreaction are not helpful, the overall environment needs to be conducive,” he added.

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