Child psychologists and educators are sceptic about mental health of students in Kashmir aggravated by the heavy military clampdown and prolonged school shutdown in the valley. Children are on the edge ever since schools shutdown in March amidst political strife and conflicts in the area.
Poor internet connectivity and erratic education have also disrupted the lives of many academic researchers, throwing mental health in shambles. Many students find it difficult to tap into virtual classroom as some of their peers are doing. Schools have been closed since August last year, only to reopen shortly in February and close again in March at the onset of COVID-19 pandemic.
“Routines of children have been disrupted and families find it overwhelming at times to engage with their children, who are confined to their homes for long periods,” commented Dr Syed Karrar, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS) in Srinagar.
Although government has declared complete closure of schools till August, there is no certainty about restoration of normalcy in Kashmir. The UT has been reporting hundreds of positive cases daily following which authorities have re-imposed stringent lockdown measures.
Farhana Yaseen, a counsellor at the IMHANS-run Child Guidance and Well-being Centre, highlights the psychological complexities that many people are sliding into.
“There is too much uncertainty in people’s minds and panic around their worries, which is resulting in anxiety and other mental health issues among children,” explained Yaseen.
Teachers have, nonetheless, initiated informal community schools to compensate for the loss of education although inclusivity remains the most difficult challenge.