With children, for children-forever!
With schools closed for the longest stretches, amusement parks and picnic spots restricted and the overall outdoor activities brought to a sudden halt, young children are, for the first time, confined to their homes with little idea about when they could join back their friends, classmates etc once again. Nothing like this has ever been experienced and even a place like Kashmir which has seen prolonged strikes and curfews for many decades now, is finding the new scenario as a ‘never-before’ one.
The unprecedented situation shaped up by the COVID crisis and the subsequent lockdown and obligatory restrictions announced by various governments across the world have limited our routine outdoor activities and millions of children are constrained like never before. Across the world, children are coming to terms with concepts, rather alien concepts, of physical distancing, quarantines, extraordinary measures of hygiene and above all remaining home bound with no contact to the outside world- their friends, school mates, teachers and even amusement parks and picnics.
There is no doubt about the fact that the circumstances are such that most of our children, like adults, are feeling restricted, disconnected, isolated, anxious, bored and restless and in the absence of physical activities these feelings are, unfortunately, going to mount if there are no interventions. What makes things more worrisome is the fact that the pandemic allowed no time for a gradual or measured lockdown and everything had to be stopped in a flash. The immediacy, the urgency and the suddenness of it all came as a shock to many- especially to children who woke up and were told that the schools had been closed, the parks had been blocked, the gardens had been constrained and the whole lot of outdoor activities had been restricted.
Perhaps what could be the best possible way to engage children during these times is to devise innovative methods and means of entertaining them and at the same time providing food to their creativity. There are various agencies and organizations that have been trying to design creative content that will entertain and provide a much-needed escape to the children. A group of artists (the writer is a member) have initiated wall painting projects in north Kashmir and are engaging young children- in a controlled manner, ensuring adherence to health guidelines- who seem enjoying the process.
As the situation continued to go worse from bad and more and more cases of the virus were reported and the causalities also soured up, the chances of reopening of schools became bleaker and bleaker and as a result children are now away from schools for about 12 weeks – an unprecedented amount of time.
This forced the concerned authorities to look for options and the idea of remote learning was conceived to be the only viable one to reach out to children and to, atleast, engage them academically even for brief spans. Though the idea was sure to help prevent the academic set-back and also help children in atleast staying engaged with their studies, but in a place like Kashmir, where the internet speed in curtailed to 2G, the idea of remote learning looks like a jocke already.
Though remote learning may be seen as the only viable way of reaching out to children, but the real-world connections and spending time with friends, classmates, in public parks, in gardens and in amusement parks etc can never be replaced.