Several schools in the city have decided to address the mental health of students, especially those in junior classes, as they are forced to stay indoors for a second year in a row.
Many of these students are also seeing deaths and diseases at home or in close family, which is taking a toll on their well-being.
Schools are structuring their timetable to include separate time slots for teachers to interact informally with the students or giving them a “break” where the students interact among themselves with no adult interference.
While teachers have been asked to be in constant touch with students, schools are also taking the initiative of arranging a one-to-one with a professional, if needed.
Calcutta Girls’ High School has sent a notice to parents of children in Classes II to V that if they spot any beh-avioural changes they could contact a teacher and the school would set up a parents’ session with a professional.
“If they (parents) notice any defiance, trauma, viol-ence or behavioural changes in children they should immediately contact us,” said principal Basanti Biswas.
The initiative by Calcutta Girls’ is to train parents to cope with the situation better.
School were shut for almost a year from March last to February this year. The government allowed school to reopen from February 12 but they were closed again as case began to rise.
At Loreto House, the teachers have been asked to be in constant touch with students. Parents have been notified that the “school counsellor is always available”. “Children need reassurance because there is hardly any family that is not affected by Covid,” said Aruna Gomes, the principal of Loreto House.
At Sushila Birla Girls’ School a class teacher period has been allotted every day for 20 minutes where students can “express their fears and anxieties”.
La Martiniere for Girls has started a non-academic class once a week for students of Classes III, IV and V where students can to talk to their teachers.
“Children are given an opportunity to meet their teachers online in small batches of five or six. They are missing out on school life and this is their little time together to talk and connect with the teacher,” said Rupkatha Sarkar, the principal of La Martiniere for Girls.
The pandemic is stretching and children are unable to go out or meet their peers. “In this situation every teacher has to be a counsellor first to understand the child,” added Sarkar.
Psychotherapist Farishta Dastur Mukerji said the mental health of students should be a school’s top priority now.
Heads of schools felt not just “disease in the family” but to hear about teachers being taken ill can also be upsetting. “When they see a substitute teacher taking a class they know another teacher is down with Covid-19 and it is upsetting,” said Sharmila Bose, the director of Sushila Birla Girls’ School.