By Orji Ebere
The extension of the stay at home order and closure of schools affect the mental health of students, it has caused psychological distress, emanating from fear and apprehension regarding their academic and social life. Whereas some students are preoccupied by other social affairs that has taken their minds off school, others however are distressed and voicing out their concerns and level of preparedness to resume school if the ban on schools is lifted.
A student Chikezie Rejoice, expressing her concern said “The extension of the stay at home order has deprived me of a lot of things. I’m no longer diligent in my personal study because there is no teacher and peer to motivate me. I feel lazy and tired of following the same routine daily. It disturbs me so much that there is no impartation of knowledge of any kind, no sense of fulfillment, and I feel lonely too. I would be very happy if schools resume because the lockdown has made me value education. And the poor masses are the ones that are largely affected because those that are rich have the financial and technological means to get educated online and acquire vocational skills, but as for me, my parents are more concerned about how we would feed. The lockdown is delaying our academic progress and I fear that schools may be asked to repeat the previous session instead of going into a new one.”
An exam class student Livinus Elisha shared, “I am discouraged from reading my books because no matter how much I read I don’t know when the exams will commence. Seriously, I’m getting bored of reading. The WAEC is for all West African countries, not only Nigeria. Other nations are going to take the exams and it’s starting on the 4th of August, but our minister of Education here in Nigeria said we won’t be part of it, we should give it up. So this means that we will lose one year of our academic session. When I say this, I believe I’m speaking for other students too. We are very annoyed, we have been reading for a long time now, we have been burning our mid-night candles for this, we have been preparing for this exam and now they are giving us this type of heart breaking news. Other nations too have the Covid-19 and I’m sure they are setting up precautionary measures. Our country should do the same too. They don’t have to open up schools for students of all level; they can open it up for only students in exam classes like JSS3 and SS3. It is really annoying. I miss having an interactive class in school, especially in topics that I find complex. In schools, there are teachers and group study that help me learn faster and easier. Right now, I can say that I am prepared for my exams because I have been studying, but if the date of resumption is extended again, I may just forget the things I read. Schools should be open and they should make water and soap for washing of hands and hand sanitizers available, then the students should come to school with two face masks since using just one for a whole day may become contaminated. Social distancing should be observed during the exam. I believe my school is always prepared to resume because it is very serious and teachers are enthusiastic when it comes to imparting knowledge. For example, initially when the federal government gave schools permission to resume lectures for exam class students, my school resumed the following week.”
Another exam class student, Favour Orji remarked “The long extension of the lockdown on schools have caused me to become lonely, depressed and separated from my friends. My brain has become less active compared to when school was in session. Right now I would say that no student who is a candidate for WAEC is fully ready for the exam. Most of us read on our own but it is not enough. We need explanations from our teachers. I miss my friends, study buddies and teachers, and I also miss learning through visuals like charts, graphs, etc. When schools resume I expect that the examination council will give us time to prepare for the exams in our school setting. I expect teachers to take lessons and extramural classes very serious. I fear that with the controversy going on about school resumption that there may be continued delay in our academic year and it would affect our educational system. Moreover, it has increased our fear of the virus. I believe that if schools decide to fumigate the whole environment, observe all precautionary measures and follow all government directives, it would change the mind of the educational board to keep schools closed.”
A university student Ukonu Chidera, opined “The lockdown has put a hold on my academic life and has shifted my attention to other spheres of life. I no longer do the kind of things I do in school, I don’t wake up on time. I have missed a whole lot of knowledge I would have gotten from lectures and research in school. I miss interactive learning and my social life in school. I don’t know what courses I would be taught for next semester, so I can’t get textbooks. I have shifted my focus to learning of skills. Since I have not been in school for a long time now, on a scale of 1 to 5, I would rate myself 5 on how prepared I am to go back to school.”
Meanwhile, a psychologist and photojournalist, Okonkwo Emmanuel Chukwunonso in discussing the psychological challenges students are faced with following the long stay at home described psychological stress as a development which could be seen as feelings (emotional, physiological or cognitive) individuals undergo when they perceive situation(s) to exceed their adjustment mechanism. According to him, stress affect everyone, as every individual suffer from one type of stress or the other which could be acute, episodic or chronic stress depending on the duration.
According to Emmmanuel, students have been observed to experience stress as a result of this confinement imposed by government due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Students experience stress in the area of their finance as most of them have gone into the market and street in order to find a means of survival. He further sited the perceived unconducive learning environment which he said also act as a stressor to students, as the atmosphere of some homes do not encourage learning.
“Proposing and debunking news on academic related activities make students susceptible to great anxiety. Students who are enthusiastic, diligent and academically oriented suffer from depression and feelings of non fulfillment and low self-efficacy at this stage. Their brains are left inactive and they may have little or no means of engaging in activities that will task their brains, thus leading to memory decay. Since human beings have greater resilient disposition, and must survive and be satisfied at all cost, lots of students indulge in social vices as a coping strategy. Eg Rape, cyber-crimes, etc have drastically increased.
“Students need to go back to school as their intellect and creative ability keeps diminishing. However, some parents are not yet ready to release their children for school activities because they do not trust the government and school in providing a corona free environment. Every day the statistics of people suffering from the covid-19 increase, thus fear of children’s safety by parents”, he said.
Mr. Emmanuel called for a social support which he described as a necessity.
“Students need support from their parents and loved ones to navigate through these crises, so that its negative outcome does not become too unbearable when schools commence. Parents should give in their best to see that their children engage in virtual teaching and learning, home tutorials to keep them on academic track. Hope from the government will reduce the psychological tension this confinement has brought upon students. Students want to know when they are going back to school with absolute certainty. With these, they will become active again.
“Also, students have to be patient whilst they are still at home. They should revisit their old books and textbooks if they do not have new ones to study, this will help them not to experience memory decay as a result of misuse and disuse. They should make use of their creative ability to devise educative tasks or/and game to keep themselves busy while they wait for government approval to finally resume school”, he advised.