Students are amid a mental health and education crisis
13 September 2021 at 5:15 pm
How far are governments prepared to go to provide the support that students and young people need right now, asks year 10 student and VicSRC Student Executive Advisory Committee member Aakriti Malhotra, who shares three things students would like to see.
We have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The past 18 months have been challenging, disruptive and overwhelming, to put it lightly. We have had only restricted access to social support networks, and remote learning has led to a drastic decline in already low levels of mental, social, emotional, and in many cases, physical health.
As an individual, I was not as hard hit as some of my peers. And there are many students who have thrived in this period. But a significant number of students have struggled.
This disparity has been reflected in conversations with my peers – having discussions with friends has signalled a drop in the timely completion of work, dispersed test scores, and declining engagement levels.
Governments have consistently assured that “there is support out there”, and that final year students will receive results that reflect them and their abilities accurately. But what’s missing from these messages, and what students like me in Victoria really need to hear, is how far governments are prepared to go, to provide the tremendous support that students and young people need right now.
Now is the time to think creatively and boldly. Now is the time to prioritise students, and include our voices in discussions. Now is the time to consult students for decisions that affect us.
The Student Executive Advisory Committee at the Victorian Student Representative Council (VicSRC) has worked hard to collate student opinion and feedback. On behalf of Victorian students, we launched a petition for the following three proposals:
- Two state-wide mental health days for schools to ensure every student and educator has an opportunity to focus on self care and prioritise their well being.
- A return to school term four. Year 12 students and at risk/vulnerable/essential worker students to return to school immediately. Other year levels to attend as a cohort for one or two days per week to focus on engagement, wellbeing and connecting back to schools as a place of learning and belonging.
- Changing the year 12 exams to give students a choice based on areas of study (such as in further maths). Students choose a smaller number of areas of study to be assessed on from the whole subject to reduce the revision and allow them to focus their learning.
The government needs to take a step in the right direction, and act on these recommendations. Not only will these recommendations relieve some of the intense pressure faced by students across the state, but it will also show that the Victorian government is dedicated to improving student experiences. It will assure us that the government’s messages were not token, and will go a long way in establishing a relationship of trust and certainty between the government and Victorian students.
Students are our future. Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce. It’s not just a matter of “surviving school”. We want to enjoy our final years, accomplish goals, and surpass our own expectations. The government must support and equip us to thrive, so that we can support our community and the economy over the next decade and beyond.
Circumstances are unprecedented. So should be the outcomes.
This article is part of a monthly series, Youth Matters, a collaboration between Youth Affairs Council Victoria and Pro Bono Australia to inject the voices of young people into the social change sector.