Dept Concerned About Psychological Impact of Lockdown on Students

A study launched by the Human Sciences Research Council revealed that over 65% of students experienced mild to severe psychological distress due to the pandemic and the resulting Lockdown. This was only one of many other shocking and concerning findings of the study.

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The Youth of South Africa should of course not be left behind and we've now gotten some insight into what life was like for students during the heavy lockdown and the major adjustment that came with it.

On Monday morning, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) presented the results of a study on the impact of Covid-19 on students in the higher education sector, at CPUT's Bellville Campus.

A shocking statistic was that over 65% of students experienced mild to severe psychological distress, 72% of these students were between the ages of 18 and 19. The study then also revealed that 18% of students were using substances to cope during lockdown.

Dr  Ramneek Ahluwalia said:

One year down the line, we know a lot more than we knew last year this time when the virus hit us. We haven't spoken much on the Covid impact on the youth ... but the impact that Covid has on young people is important for us to understand.

The findings of the study were presented by Prof Sibusiso Sifunda, Chief Researcher at the HSRC, who revealed that a large portion of responses came from first year students and showed they were affected most.

First year students of 2020 and 2021 barely spent any time on campuses. With 2020 first-time entering students being on campus for under two months before things were shut down, they were then forced to adjust to an online learning programme. Not to mention difficulties for students who lived on residence.

The Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, said:

I am concerned about the impact of Covid-19 of first year students because they're the ones who need to be on campus the most, they need to adjust.

The study revealed that 40% of students returned home because of the Covid-19 outbreak and that 1% of students had no place to stay after the pandemic broke.

50% of students who participated in the study said they had a suitable place to study during the lockdown while 30% didn't. A positive is that 79% of students had regular access to electricity.

4% of students did not have access to the internet while 80% of students said their institutions provided online learning.

41% of students indicated that they could not purchase their own food during lockdown with 80% relying on families to provide them with food during lockdown.

Students who could not buy their own food then relied on food and financial donations or on food given by other people. Some students went hungry on some days due to a lack of food.

It showed that food security was an issue during lockdown.

The main challenge, according to these students, was the loss of study time and the lack of money for essential items. Others also had issues with not being able to be social with friends and family.

On why studying youth is important in the case of Covid, the Minister explained, “they are often the ones who bring the virus into households where they affect their households”.

Nzimande said, "We have had a number of cluster outbreaks at institutions but they have been managing them". He continued to say that the sector did well with managing the completion of the 2020 academic year.

Covid-19 has exposed the depth of social inequality in our country.

The objective of this study is not only to understand the effects of the pandemic from a youth perspective but to also develop a Post-School Education and Training strategy to deal with Covid and as Sifunda said for "myth busting".

RELATED: Study Shows TVET Students Suffered Most During Lockdown

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