Student wellbeing: 9K well spent?

November 25, 2020

Collage created by Finn Souter with images from Sodium Glow

Naaila Ofori Muhammad reports on the pandemic’s impact on young people’s education and mental health

As Covid-19 changes every aspect of our life and introduces a new normal, there seems to be a group of people consistently left behind as an afterthought: students.

This was first evident with the A Level and GCSE grading system. Ofqual show that almost 40% of teacher assessments in England were downgraded. This meant a lot of A Level students lost their university places, causing considerable and unnecessary distress for them.

The algorithm designed to mark exams clearly didn’t work fairly, and many students felt their futures were being gambled with. In particular, working class students bore the brunt of this downgrading. Ofqual showed ‘A’ grades at private schools went up by 4.7% compared to 0.3% at sixth-form colleges.

Although the decision to award these grades was overturned eventually, it was still too late for some young people, who had already accepted an alternative place or decided to take a gap year.

Unfortunately, the problems didn’t end there. Lots of students, were told that a ‘blended approach’, essentially a mix of online and in person teaching, would be taken, so subsequently moved into university accommodation instead of staying at home: an expensive move!

Adding fuel to the fire, an inevitable spike in Covid-19 cases has led to many students being forced to self-isolate

However, when they arrived, many realised that the entire semester would be taught completely online. This hardly seems worth the £9,250 annual tuition fee. Many discussions around fee reductions have been sparked, to little avail so far.

Adding fuel to the fire, an inevitable spike in Covid-19 cases has led to many students being forced to self-isolate; being confined to their rooms and not allowed to go out for days on end. It’s not much fun being cooped up in your room not knowing anybody, the absolute reverse of what anyone would expect in their first few weeks at university.

Some students even had security guards manning the exits of their accommodation to prevent them from leaving; closer to a prison than a campus. And to think we’re paying £6,000 plus on rent for the pleasure!

The food organised by some universities for those in quarantine, has often been far from adequate, with a Muslim student receiving a ham sandwich and bacon flavoured crips!

As expected, this pandemic is taking a toll on people’s mental health and students are certainly not exempt from this. According to the London Ambulance Service paramedics are attending almost 40 suicides or attempted suicides a day, compared to 22 per day in 2019.

With a second lockdown upon us, I fear for the students stuck in halls

One student at the University of Manchester wrote a thread on twitter detailing how the current situation is affecting her mental health stating, “Students shouldn’t have to be left until breaking point in order to actually be taken seriously.”

With a second lockdown upon us, I fear for the students stuck in halls. How many more will have to suffer as a result of the government’s failure to put our lives before the economy?

Many students in halls have been supporting each other as best they can, often using social media as a coping mechanism. TikTok is teeming with short videos making light of the situation, inviting others to virtually bond over this shared experience.

As a student, living at home, I can’t speak personally on this specific part of the current university experience, but I can attest to the profound loneliness felt through not being able to truly connect with my peers.

If you’re a student currently affected by the issues raised, please reach out to your university’s mental health services, and access support. Many are switching to online counselling in light of the pandemic.

The Mix has a text service as well as a helpline. Papyrus is a confidential support and advice service.

Additionally you can contact:
Samaritans: 116 123
Anxiety UK: 03444 775 774
Calm: 0800 58 58 58

Naaila is an English undergraduate. Outside of academics she is interested in interior design, film and photography.

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