It was never easy being a kid but this is a particularly frightful time to be one. Schools remain shut as the pandemic has forced the enforcement of safety measures with varying levels of strictness. Which means children are losing out on those precious hours when they can have their parents out of their hair, catch up with friends and get up to all kinds of mischief while the teacher is droning on about all the things they need to memorize if they hope to become a Doctor or Engineer. They are also missing out on all those tedious extra classes their parents had signed them up for in the hope that their precious offspring will become an Olympic gold medalist, Noble laureate, or at the very least one of those geeky types who make a gazillion bucks by inventing apps, gadgets and all those techie thingamajigs.
Now they have online classes where they keep their eyes glued to a screen, pretending to pay attention to flustered teachers who have yet to master the demands of the new medium, fudging notes, casually cheating on tests while diligently catching up with buddies and cousins on Hangouts arguing about whose parents are more annoying or engaging in heated debates regarding the awesomeness of One Direction Vs BTS. When they have a little down time, they are expected to help with household chores and they can’t afford to slack off since their mommies have sworn to cook their handheld devices in the microwave the next time there is a dirty dish in the sink, chocolate milk stains under the table, or laundry items that have not been folded and put away.
And then there are those coding classes which are all the rage thanks to Madhuri Dixit’s white smile and convincing spiel about how coding is invaluable towards helping youngsters enhance their logical faculties, math skills, creativity and of course, the possibility of becoming the next generation’s Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. The only consolation is that the older kids have it worse. The ones who have to clear the dreaded entrance exams which are tough to crack in the best of times but have become even more formidable thanks to the Covid – 19 threat and the ensuing mayhem. Or those whose parents paid exorbitant rates to get admission to fancy colleges in India or abroad only to be told that the campuses and classrooms are indefinitely closed.
With increased levels of anxiety, stress and depression being reported among children, perhaps it is of paramount importance to ease up on the pressures of our expectations regarding what we want for our youngsters and let them chart their own course in an uncertain future. After all, they are marginally less befuddled than we are.This column was originally published in The New Indian Express.