CATCH THEM YOUNG

06/08/2022

Today, more than ever, in the pandemic times, early childhood educators are being asked to provide young children with access to a nurturing, enriched, high-quality environment that will support positive growth, learning, and developmental outcomes for all children. The mental and psychosocial wellbeing of children promotes quality learning. World Health Organisation (WHO) norms for physical, mental, social and spiritual wellness are well placed and nations are expected to take it up in letter and spirit. However, this is not the case, especially in India, where holistic approach towards education is lacking big time.
While more attention is given to students with physical disabilities by schools and teachers, the mental and emotional aspects of both abled and disabled students are widely ignored. School students encounter common emotional and behavioural problems some time during their school days. Adolescents in particular have moderate to severe mental health difficulties.
There is an urgent need to also look into the mental benefits of physical activity at school, which has been a rather neglected theme in health promotion research during recent decades. This is unfortunate as mental health has been proclaimed as one of the most important health concerns of the 21st century. The benefits of physical activity for the mental health and well-being of children and young people are well-established. Increased physical activity during school hours is associated with better physical, psychological and social health and well?being. Unfortunately many children and young people exercise insufficiently to benefit from positive factors like well-being.
In both South Asian countries, including India, disciplinary, learning-related, bullying, school refusal, fear/anxiety, attention deficit and conduct disorder problems are commonly seen in schools. Students committing suicide after failing the final exams and dropping out are closely connected to lack of mental health education and counselling in school. Intellectual disability among school children is a great challenge for routine teaching-learning activities. It is scientifically proven that students with intellectual difficulties need specific education in a separate setting.
Girls entering puberty at school face the shameful problem of dealing with their menstrual cycle. It sometimes creates psychological pressure and is misconstrued. Physical changes in girls and boys are natural, but they remain an unanswered and difficult matter for school adolescents. Migration, changing schools and parents fighting at home are other shared causes for students' conversion disorder. Lack of awareness about mental health and misconceptions about its treatment are another big challenge. A minor psychological reason might bring about a serious and harmful result if not dealt with timely. Yet, there is little or no space for matters related to mental health in the school curriculum in comparison to physical health and hygiene.
Children need to have a good mental health status if they are going to live up to their full potential and truly live a life that is filled with positive experiences and the willingness to do what is best for themselves and the people around them. Mental health education in school is basically for preventive and promotional purposes. As students' emotional and social skills are crucial for a successful future career, school education should include mental health-related topics. Schools need to give due attention to the psychosocial wellbeing of students before real classroom teaching. Some basic ideas about mental illness and its treatment will be better disseminated in society if students are taught about it in school.
(Writer is a Retired Principal & Educationist. Views expressed are personal)

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