November 14 is the birth anniversary of our dear Chacha Nehru as the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, was fondly called. For years, we have been celebrating Children's Day on this date. We had so many variety programmes at school on this day. But this year, there would be no such celebrations or programmes due to the onslaught of Coronavirus. Around 45 lakh students in Kerala have remained indoors since June 1. Though that did not stop the studies, there has been a marked change in their life and studies. So how exactly have these changed as the spectre of COVID-19 still haunts us?
Children need to sleep for about 9 to 11 hours a day. Earlier, even if children went to bed late in the night, they had to still get up early the next day. They had to get ready quickly in the morning and then rush to school. But now there is no morning rush. Nor does the honking of the school bus ring through the neighbourhood. As they don’t have to go to the school, children can sleep a little longer.
Children should never skip breakfast. But most often they tend to swallow a bit of the meal and run off to school in the morning. However, now they have the time to sit peacefully and eat as much as they want. But that does not mean that children should gorge on whatever they can lay their hands on. Teachers have specifically said that children should engage in some minor exercises frequently during the day, so that they do not put on weight.
Vitamin D is essential for our body and sunlight is one of the major sources of this nutrient. Therefore, teachers have urged children to step out for about 20 minutes between 11am and 1pm. So that the body gets five times more Vitamin than when exposed to sunlight during the early morning hours. Several schools were set to change their routine and have noon assembly instead of the morning assembly session. Just then the Coronavirus struck and this could not be implemented. Though there are no assembly sessions on the school grounds, prayers and principals' messages reach students through voice messages and videos on their smartphones and laptops.
Akhil, Aju, Bibeesh, Arathi, Minu, Ramya... it had been a pleasure to listen to the teacher calling out students' names to take the attendance daily. And eager students would wait for their names to be called out to jump up and mark their attendance with a squeaky 'present teacher'. Even that has transformed in the new era of digital learning. Students have to send across voice messages to teachers over WhatsApp to mark their attendance in the morning.
Earlier, some children would remember about the homework only after the teacher asks for them in the class. They are sure to get into trouble then. And also, if the answers are wrong. But now, there are no such worries. Even if the children forget about homework, teachers regularly send messages to parents to alert the kids about the assignments. And parents ensure that students get to work immediately. But if they are at work, the parents would duly remind the children once they are home and ensure that the tasks are completed. The teachers also seem to have accepted this routine and just leave a friendly reminder to be careful to the students.
Children, however, would be dearly missing those lunch breaks. They could get a taste of various delicacies prepared at different kitchens all at once. Now that seems like a distant memory. They would also be yearning to catch up with their friends in the real world. The only consolation is that the children can now join their parents in the kitchen to help them out or try their hand at cooking.
PT periods and the afternoon interval were the best parts of any school day. The children could play various types of games. Running, playing, and some minor squabbling were part of them. Or may be a round of 'antakshari' too. But now the children mostly remain indoors with nearly no outdoor activities or anyone to play with.
Earlier, parents had a tough time keeping the children away from television and smartphones. Now, the trend has reversed. These days, parents can be heard asking the children to switch on the TV or smartphone and start studying. The only difference is that earlier the children could watch cartoons or films on televisions, but now their teachers appear on the screen.
In the pre-COVID times, children had to be in school from morning till evening. Now, small children have only 2 to 4 hours of class in a day as looking at the computer or mobile screen for long is not good for the eyes.
As the final bell would ring for the day, children used to run out of the classroom en masse. That was the perfect way to mark the end of a long school day. Now, when class ends, children just have to switch off the TV or phone.
Some schools are conducting contests for this Children's Day, wherein the students have to dress up as Chacha Nehru and share the photos with the teachers.
But the low-key celebration is only for this year. We would soon discover a medicine to beat the Coronavirus and we would return to our classrooms. Next year, we hope to celebrate Children's Day with great fervour. By then social distancing norms could be a thing of the past and we would all take part in the celebration together.