Looking ahead: young people’s hopes and fears post-pandemic

December 9, 2020

Read Jack Petchey Foundation’s Covid-19 youth survey

Arjan Arenas reflects on findings of Jack Petchey Foundation Covid-19 youth survey

The Jack Petchey Foundation has recently published a survey, for which over 6,000 young people across London and Essex have discussed their experiences of lockdown, and what they’d like to see for themselves and others like them after the pandemic.

Reading the survey, it’s overwhelmingly apparent how much they’ve been impacted – they’ve all made clear how much they miss school and other education, not just for the teaching, but also the support they provide, as well as youth clubs and societies, which they’re determined to get more involved with in future.

Admirably, a large number of the young people surveyed have spent lockdown volunteering and helping members of their communities through these hard times. They’re also looking to the future, and are hoping for more opportunities for training, work experience, mental health support, and volunteering.

Since almost nine in ten respondents to the survey are of school age, education was an overarching theme of their answers to the questions, with the survey showing that three quarters of them missed going to school, and one in three lacked adequate resources to study at home.

The impact on education has been one of the defining features – maybe even the defining feature – of my own experience of the pandemic. The last three months of my first year at university (including my exams) took place online, as has the whole of the first term of my second year.

There is no real substitute for in-person teaching and meeting, socialising and bonding with other students

Lectures are now pre-recorded, while most seminars take place live on Zoom; one that does take place in person involves students being filed in line into the classroom, and then filed back out of the building once it’s over. There is no real substitute for in-person teaching, and not being able to meet up in person with other students (as well as socialise with them after the one in-person lecture) makes it harder to bond with classmates.

Luckily, I have been staying in touch with the friends I made in my first term, and an unexpected silver lining is that I’ve been able to get involved with student societies through Zoom meetings, having struggled to find time for in-person sessions last year.

I’ve taken up running, and I’ve been trying to keep this up every day

The pandemic has also had a major impact on how I spend my spare time. I used to enjoy heading into central London to go to the theatre and visit art galleries and museums, all of which closed during lockdown. Since I spend an increasing amount of time on my laptop these days, what with university tuition having been moved online, I’m not especially eager to attend the virtual exhibitions which some galleries have been putting on recently.

More productively, since gyms have closed, I’ve taken up running, and I’ve been trying to keep this up every day. In addition to exercise, this has given me the opportunity to get fresh air after spending days working indoors.

It goes without saying that I’m far from alone in the impact the pandemic has had on my day-to-day life, and the fact that many other young people have been through a similar experience means I haven’t felt especially worried in lockdown.

As a return to normal life starts to seem more visible thanks to the vaccine, I wonder what the future holds for young people in general – although seeing how productive so many of them have been over the past year, things look promising.

Arjan Arenas studied history at King’s College London, then completed a master’s in the history of international relations at the London School of Economics. He has worked with Exposure since January 2018, and is particularly interested in history and politics, as well as books, film and television. Outside of his work with Exposure, Arjan has written reviews of films and television programmes, as well as theatre productions in London’s West End.

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