“I leave home at 5 am. We have tuition from 6 am to 7.45 am after which we go to school. School starts at 8 am and finishes at 3.30 pm. Soon after school we have to rush for tuition that starts at 4 pm and ends at 6pm. During the weekend I go for entrance coaching,” says a tired-looking Rosanna after returning home from tuition class. School reopening blues are back.
School life was once the most fun-filled period in life. Now for 16-year-olds like Rosanna and those in high school, life seems to be more of work and no play. For children and teens, too much work and too little play can backfire, leading to signs of depression, anxiety, perfectionism and stress.
“School and studies these days are very demanding. Children are highly pressurised with expectations from teachers and relatives that trigger temper tantrums common among children today. They should be given some time to relax like playing badminton or chess at school and at home,” says Dr T V Ravi, Head of Department of Paediatrics and Neonatology, Ernakulam Medical Centre.
But games period is taken for granted in some schools. “We have a physical education hour but it is more or less non-existent since teachers keep taking it over to finish the portions,” says Raina, a class IX student.
Gone are the days when school was considered a to be fun affair, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there where students are pushed into going for entrance coaching classes as early as Class VI and Class VII. Dr C J John, chief psychiatrist, Medical Trust Hospital, tells that students nowadays have more and more stress-related problems which they are unable to cope with. Sometimes they even lead to suicidal behaviour. “Sadly, personality development is no longer given priority in schools. Some parents think sending their children to school with more books will give more knowledge,” he said.
Dr Shaila M Kamath, a paediatrician of the Westside Hospital,says that many students today suffer from problems like backache and neck ache due to their heavy backpacks.
“To resolve this we have introduced texts books for each term. We have now made the Class X examinations a comprehensive evaluation like in most advanced countries,” says Adv T P M Ibrahim Khan, president, Kerala CBSE Schools Management Association president.
“Clubbing all the subjects for a term and introducing one text book per term greatly helps reduce the load my daughter had to carry to school but it is not so in higher classes,” points out Bindhu, a mother of an eight-year-old.
Sadly this academic year will not see any such changes for the better is what A K Hashim, Director of The State Council Educational Research and Training (SCERT) has to say. “We are identifying the handicaps in the system. By June 14 we will hold discussions on ways to resolve the issues of a heavy syllabus and heavy backpacks so as to mitigate them at least next academic year.” Teachers should see that competitions among students are healthy and beneficial.
Even the way of life leads to problems. Loney Jacob, child psychologist of Psycounsel, Panampilly Nagar, suggests that stress can be lowered if proper habits are inculcated. Food, sleep, health and learning habits should be looked into, to help develop the right mindset and promote healthy competition among children.
Studies have shown that pre-schoolers require 12 hours of sleep, elementary students, 10 hours, teenagers, eight hours. Children staying up late even after their parents go to bed can prove harmful for their mental and physical health. “Their diet should have plenty of calcium and iron for healthy development of bones and to prevent anaemic conditions which make them weak and poor learners,” said Dr Leena Saju, consultant nutritionist, KIMS Hospital,as proper sleep, nutrition and health could help students from carrying any additional stress other than their studies and also cope better to the heavy academic load.
A boost for students
* Get eight to 12 hours of sleep
* Do not skip breakfast, the food for the brain
* Avoid sugary snacks, caffeine, aerated drinks and junk food
* Takes fruits or salads during snack time
* Invest in sturdy bags, with straps for both shoulders
* Be vaccinated against food and water-borne diseases
* All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy -Games is a must
* Spend prime time with parents