The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted many- one of the worst-hit for sure were children or students, and more specifically, the 10th and 12th boards appearing students. Before they could settle in their 10th or 12th class, the lockdown was announced, many were too anxious about studies, the completion of syllabus and exams, and their future. While online classes settled their anxiety a bit, there were a huge number of students who weren’t able to concentrate in online classes. I spoke to a few students from my Society, who are appearing for boards (both 10th and 12th) from different schools and have already done their pre-boards or at least the first set of pre-boards. It felt good to find them in a much more calm and settled frame of mind than many adults would be in such a scenario, but each one of them confirmed the anxiety and stress level is very different this time! Many students took the online classes a bit lightly in the initial stage which led to tremendous pressure in the later phase. As mentioned by all of them, online classes have their own set of challenges. Vaidehi, a 12th grader mentioned, “It was initially very scary and challenging, we were anxious about completion of syllabus, but gradually that anxiety settled”. When asked about what were the challenges they had to face in online classes, they mentioned “It is difficult to concentrate on the classes from home, amid lots of distractions, and the level of engagement we have in physical classes with our teachers and classmates, was missing here! Asking questions and clarifying doubts was often very difficult! Especially for children who are shy or who do not want to participate, it wasn’t possible for the teacher to gauge if they understood the concept”. Aditya, who is appearing for the 10th board exam this year from a reputed CBSE school, mentioned – “After a year’s study at home, everything online when we had to appear for the pre-boards offline- it wasn’t easy!” Pranav, an IGCSE board 10th grader said- “I had to work really hard for the pre-boards, as few subjects which I could have prepared better in offline classes were very difficult due to the online classes”.At the same time, Pranav pointed out “ Since everything is online as we are saving files of all our projects and assignments on google drive, so we get the benefit of technology- finding things have become much easier!”

When asked about the pre-boards exam set up at school, all of them were all praise for their schools, as the schools are maintaining hygiene and sanitation, mandatory temperature check every day, social distancing in the classrooms, which clearly suggests schools are taking care of their share of responsibilities. How was the preparation scenario in the middle of the pandemic? They all agreed it was chaotic and difficult in the beginning, in fact, some mentioned that many students who didn’t plan well since the beginning were finding it difficult to cope up with the pressure! Vaidehi says- “For the 12th graders the pressure is more because we have to prepare for both- boards and the entrance exams and some of my friends who are not able to cope with the pressure, are focusing on entrance only!” When asked about her plan she says- “ I had planned ahead, I feel boards is as much important as are the entrance exams so I balance both, I dedicate 6 hours for boards and rest of the time for my entrance preparation” When asked about the help from school around preparation for finals, they all admitted that teachers have gone out of the way to help them, clear doubts, they could reach out to teachers for any help. Special online classes, mock tests, and revisions-they did it all to help the students. Pranav mentioned in this context, “My school arranged online socio-emotional learning sessions with psychologists to help students cope with exam stress!” When asked about the role of the family they all confirmed that their families are supportive and understanding their stress- as Vaidehi mentions “When at times I snap due to stress, my parents understand, they don’t react, they try to calm me down” Pranav, however, cautions the parents of such students- “ Keep a tab on what your child is doing, if he or she is at all attending the class!”. When asked further, he clarifies- “Many of my friends switch off video, mute their mic and do something else – instead of focusing in class- hence this advice!”

The pressure of exams and the chaos of the pandemic surely have taken a toll on the children! Some of them would be appearing for their life’s first milestone exam while the other set has to prepare for both the boards and entrance as this will decide their future! We as their family, teachers, and neighbors need to be supportive and cooperative in whichever way possible.

When asked about his take away from this entire experience Aditya says- “This pandemic has helped us understand and appreciate the physical classes and school at large- how important it is to go to school, meet teachers and friends and attend classes” He further adds- “ With the vaccines rolling out, the scenario will change, it will be very different for the students next year, now that the offline classes are starting, they should make the most of it, and stay prepared in advance!”

That quite sums up the message for all- yes with the vaccines rolling out, the scenario is going to be different. The way we have all helped our children cope with the online scenario, we need to help them now to get used to the new normal as they take steps towards normalcy- Mask, sanitizers and social distancing are to stay for a while, and we need to prepare them well when they step into their new normal life in schools!

Wishing all the children appearing for boards- the very best for their exams- prepare well, but do not take the stress! You will surely emerge a winner!