How’s Our Youth Responding to the Current Pandemic?

इस ब्लॉग को हिंदी में पढ़ने के लिए, यहाँ क्लिक करें।

In this piece, Shahbaan Shah from Apni Shala’s Social-Emotional Learning and R&D team, explores how youth in Mumbai has responded to, embraced and adapted to news ways of being.

“Addressing the unmet needs of the young is a priority. We cannot let the huge advances we have made thus far in accelerating girls’ and boys’ education, delaying child marriage, addressing sexual and reproductive health needs, and building agency, be dissipated” writes Shireen Jejeebhoy, in her article The pandemic’s impact on adolescents. She reports, “the pandemic may have affected over 365 million adolescents and youth, and their needs in the upcoming months and years must be considered.”

Unfortunately, the little evidence documenting consequences of crises and disasters for young people has led to us being unprepared to appropriately respond to the COVID-19 crisis1. However, some conclusions could be drawn based on insights drawn from the experience and data from a collaborative of organizations working with adolescents. The impact has been seen in the form of increased domestic violence, issues of access to education, mental health, physical health, and privacy issues. Additionally, “disconnection from social outlets and peers will have some implications when they return to social settings”, report Tamar Mendelson and Beth Marshall2

Experts from the John Hopkins Centre for Adolescent Health also discussed how we may see a setback in the development of social and emotional skills, specifically for adolescents with regard to the social skill of empathy and a sense of identity. And both of these skills are partially developed by interactions with others.

To explore in Mumbai’s context further, we spoke to 15 of our alumni from Youth Project (between the age of 16 to 21 years) to find out how they are dealing with the lockdown. These conversations opened many new thoughts and possibilities for me. The knowledge of the lockdown has been challenging and causing some significant changes in our ways of life it became more real while I spoke to these young people. Many have lost their jobs, making familial and personal financial sustainability even more difficult for them. 

But the obstacles did not make them stop and complain. Instead, most have pushed boundaries and worked on their potential to explore new ways of being. Here are some creative ways they have been keeping themselves engaged:

  1. A group of our alumni from Mankhurd are volunteering to provide COVID-19 relief support to folks in need through Prayatna-Ek koshish, a community collaborative. They provide daily essentials and medicines to families in the surrounding areas. They want to become an ally for their people and community and hence decided to participate in community relief work rather than doing nothing about it.
  2. While festivals were not as bright as any other time, our alumni even changed their ways of celebration. During the holy festival of Eid, they prioritized safety but they also requested for their Eidi in a unique way. Reshma Shaikh shared that, “she asked her relatives to clean their hands for 20 seconds and that’s all she demanded as her Eidi this time”. 
  3. Few of them have begun teaching hygiene to their families and young ones because the alumni think that it is their responsibility to take care of their family and young ones. 
  4. Some of them shared that they enjoy their time by watching web series or movies.
  5. For some, this pause has given some time to explore their cooking skills with lessons from youtube. Some of them are becoming more creative with colors and have started painting and exploring art & crafts.
  6. Reading books and poetry has been very common among most of them. Webinars have also become a very engaging and recurring activity to keep them meaningfully occupied and have helped them with learning new skills.
  7.  Some of them have also shared their experience of missing their peers from colleges and centers and how they are communicating and connecting with them in new ways via Zoom calls and the Google meet app.  
  8. A few of them also shared how they are trying to earn money by looking out for work-from-home opportunities.

When I asked them about why they chose to do what they are doing during the lockdown out of the various alternatives available to them,  they responded, “we wanted to make the best use of our time rather than wasting it. Time is the best resource and the good thing about it is that we all have got the same time to utilize. Enhancing our skills during the lockdown would be a good idea. It is very important for us to take care of our physical, mental, and emotional health.”

Youth Project students during their session.

Youth Project alumni come from various parts of Mumbai like Mankhurd, Govandi, Kurla, Worli, Chembur, Ghatkopar, BKC, and Dombivali; some of which are containment zones. While many of them may be faced with challenges, I realized how no matter what, there are little things that each of them chose to do in response to how the lockdown impacted them physically, emotionally, or socially. These conversations allowed me to celebrate the courage and compassion of the youth and also share the wisdom they bring that we could all learn from. 

From these conversations, I have culled our some ideas for us to explore ourselves:

1. Find out in your own area how you might be able to safely and with precautions, contribute to the relief or other support work that is currently going on. It could be in any shape or form. eg: Working with a local volunteer group to help support a community’s relief effort or volunteering time with an NGO on making calls or even fundraising for an organization

2. Look at the resources you have at home. Based on your assessment choose what you might be able to practice as a hobby or a fun activity

3. Think about how you might be able to celebrate a festival or a special event like a birthday in a creative and new way etc.

4. Read your favorite writer’s book, listen to music, watch web series or movies, and explore your artistic self.

5. To maintain your physical health, exercise, or do yoga or any other form of fitness that suits you.

As you consider some of these ideas, here are a few questions – What are we doing in this pandemic for ourselves and the youth around us to reduce the possible impact on us and them, socially and emotionally? And if not, what is stopping us to do that? What are the other ways of exploring ourselves?  Let us know if you have answers or suggestions in the comment section.


Loved reading this piece? At Apni Shala, we are committed to bring you more SEL-aligned resources during this pandemic. Our work is dependent on generous donations from our supporters. If you found this useful, make a donation here: I would love to donate to Apni Shala.

About the Author:

Shahbaan Shah is a  Programme Facilitator at Apni Shala Foundation. In his role, he facilitates social-emotional learning for children, educators, and parents in a variety of settings and supports Research & Development initiatives. He holds a Bachelors in Sociology and is an alumnus of Apni Shala Fellowship. Shahbaan has previously written for Teacher Plus, a national publication for teachers in India.

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