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Reversing the impacts of poverty on students

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The effects of poverty are more than just missing a meal

By: MOOL RAJ

The word ‘Poverty’ tends to conjure up a variety of images,a variety of ideas and opinions in all of us, some based on stereotypes, some based on media and television and some on our own life experiences.

The effects of poverty are more than just missing a meal. Families struggle with chronic food insecurity, hunger, and malnutrition. When families don’t have food, their health and livelihood suffers,the long course of poverty takes a toll on them in a vicious cycle that affects one generation after another. Poverty affects all of the population in one or the other way and we all are caught in it like the prisoners.

Poverty is not only having meager material possessions or income for a person’s needs asit may include social, economic, and political marginalisation as well.

United Nations defines Poverty as, ‘the inability of having choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity’. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society, not having enough to feed and cloth a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living and not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation.

The main impact of it is seen on the students, the education sector.The student from a poorer background gets highly affected,both with disappointment and irresponsible treatment everywhere. Humiliation, exploitation,indignity,inequality, unfriendly environment they get at every place whether at college or secondary school levels .The financially worse situation takes a toll on a good number of student.

One of the biggest lessons we are taught as children is that we need to stay in school. Having an education is the first step to finding a job, earning money and living a better life. Without education, many are left jobless and stuck living in poverty for the rest of their lives. Statistics show that for children who live below the poverty line, the chances of having school success is much lower compared to their counterparts.Children living in poverty often get exposed to more stress that negatively impactstheir attention,lowers fitness and focus, cognition, intelligence quotient(IQ) and social skills. Children living in poverty also tend to hear less reciprocal conversations, are engaged in conversation with less complex vocabulary and less sentence structure.This can lead to severe mental conditions that impact a student’s motivation and desire to do well in school.

A study by the ‘Crittenton Women’s Union’ says that, ‘When a person lives in poverty, the limbic system is constantly sending fear and stress messages to the prefrontal cortex, which overloads its ability to solve problems, to solve mathematical science, set goals, to deal with extreme situations and complete tasks in the most efficient ways’. These students will continue to stay behind and are more likely to drop out when they reach high school. Infact all possible consequences of poverty have an impact on children.

Poor infrastructures, unemployment, lack of basic services and income reflect on their lack of education, malnutrition, violence at home and outside, child labor, diseases of all kinds transmitted by the family or through the environment. Indeed,poverty has long lasting and much regressive impacts on education.

Young children growing up in poverty face challenges with cognitive and literary ability and often begin school quite late compared to their peers from higher-income backgrounds.For those who do manage to go to college, they are on an average ill-prepared for the journey. Their poor academic preparation handicaps them as do poor time management and study skills.One cannot dismiss the financial pressures even for those who receive full Grants and some institutional aid, that rarely provides enough to cover their needs, and their families typically do not have the wherewithal to help.

Not only education, every sphere of life gets affected by poverty asit is the main cause and consequence of poor health. It is obvious, that poverty is linked with negative conditions such as substandard housing, homelessness, inadequate nutrition facilities and food insecurity, inadequate child care or lack of access to health care and under-resourced schools which adversely show its impacts on our children.

Poverty in adulthood is linked to depressive and serious disorders, anxiety disorders, psychological distress, and suicide as it affects mental health through an array of social and biological mechanisms acting at multiple levels. Growing up in poverty often exposes children to greater levels of stress, which can lead to psychological problems later in life. Researchers at Cornell University reported that “kids who grow up poor are more likely to have reduced short-term spatial memory.”

There is nothing inevitable about poverty. We just need to build the political will to enact the policies that will increase economic security, expand opportunities and help the middle class to evolve gradually.There should be adequate Government policies to check it out,to formulate programs to support the low income families,like creating more and more jobs for economical weaker sections. Government must also raise the minimum wages for labour class besides extending facilities like credit for childless workers etc. the policy makers must also provide paid leave and paid sick days for themto ensure quality child care.Expandingmedical aid for them besides extending loans and other scholarship schemes for poor students will also help greatly.

The author is Environmental Science Lecturer

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