When Covid-19 has taken our lives to bare existence, where survival is the main issue at stake, it’s natural that only the most essential of other activities are allowed.
When a body is infected, it fights that off internally—that’s what we see as fever. We stop work and play, and let our body tend to it. India’s Covid-19 fight is analogous to that: We are collectively in fever. But what other activity do we stop? What’s essential, what’s not?
Education is one realm that certainly cannot be written down in the list of expendable luxuries. And not just because of the prospect of wasted years and messed-up exam schedules for young adults. For pre-adolescents in their formative years, it’s nutrition for the brain.
There are indeed game-oriented,experiential models that decry formal education, but with parents focused on earning, and mobility severely impaired on account of the virus—well-rounded home schooling would be a pipe-dream in these times. That’s why the online ecosystem had suddenly crackled with life.
Karnataka, as India’s digital vanguard, was off the blocks fast: schools enlisted software from start-ups, five-year-olds logged on, teachers talked from laptop screens, everything seemed right out of a textbook of postmodernity.
But now mental health experts have put a spanner in the works. The savants at NIMHANS, for one, feel an excess of computer-bound learning will actually be detrimental to the delicate flowering process of pre-adolescent minds.
The state government, alarmed and responsive, has immediately rolled back that policy, leaving schools and start-ups high and dry. But what could be a solution? Maybe traditional material technology—the tactile medium of paper, on which a pencil etches out the growth of a young mind—need not be jettisoned. Physically distribute learning material in safe ways, gather them back, do not jettison digital either—keep those to optimal interactions. Let’s all use this as a chance to learn.