College students are left behind by Living with Covid plan

When Micheál Martin announced that another lockdown was to be implemented until April 5th, questions on how this lockdown would impact third level students began to emerge. 

The closure of colleges and universities remains intact and with no road map leading us to an end point, there are plenty of us wondering when the next time we go to an in-person lecture will be. Understandably, the Government is under intense pressure to deal with the situation we find ourselves in, but it is important to ensure that they do not forget about the education and livelihoods of third level students.  

 A statement from the USI (Union of Students in Ireland) has asked third-level institutions around the country to mitigate any potential educational disadvantages faced by students as they remain away from their usual academic lifestyle as the country comes together to reduce the impact of the pandemic.

The recent announcements have confirmed that all college activities, apart from the “most essential work”, will remain online, as stated by Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris. Unfortunately, for thousands of students, this means that their last year spent in education is spent online, without having a  graduation ceremony to celebrate the work they have put in over so many years. 

As well as the restrictions on the social aspects of college, many students are struggling to perform to their highest academic standard.

“In some instances, students are facing into assessments without access to the library or good internet connections, while others are isolating or restricting their movements due to the pandemic and therefore can’t access vital on-campus services, even if they are open,” USI president Lorna Fitzpatrick explained. 

The lack of access to important resources has a huge impact on students’ grades. Although it is tough for the government and colleges alike to combat the coronavirus, many would believe and agree that a compromise needs to be found to ensure that  third level students have their voices heard and are thought of during this time. 

The government must also consider the effects that the pandemic is having on the mental health of third level students.

In a study conducted by YourDost, an online mental health platform, a study of over 8,000 people found that third level students suffered most from the lockdown. The study says students grow more anxious, angry, and lonely as lockdown continues and they cannot find any silver lining. Emotionally, students saw a deterioration in their happiness and a severe increase of hopelessness and loneliness, as well as fear and worry. 

These emotions were connected to issues such as trying to find a job, being unable to see friends, concerns over grades and not being able to go on campus. Although the Government cannot answer and accommodate for every single matter, it is imperative they ensure every student is looked after, is happy and is not suffering during this hard time. 

The Government needs to find a way to include third level students in their ‘Living with Covid’ plan and take care that they are not left in the dark on any matter. Third level students deserve that from the Government and have the right to be treated in a way so that they are not left out and feel as though they can be looked after, no matter the circumstances.

Jack Murray

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