DURING the enforcement of the movement control order last year, Pritika Nagaraj was overwhelmed by her accumulating schoolwork.
“I ended up showing my anger towards my parents by saying things that were not nice.
“At one point, everything didn’t feel right and I didn’t feel like smiling, ” said the 15-year-old.
Coupled with that was the sense of social isolation she felt.
“It was stressful to stay at home and have limitations in communicating with others. I missed physical contact like giving my friends high fives and hugs, ” she added.
Aina Fatihah Rizal, too, buckled under pressure as classes were moved online and she had difficulty understanding her lessons.
“I prefer face-to-face classes with my teachers. I understand better that way. Online lessons make me feel stressed, ” said the 16-year-old.
These were among the litany of issues shared by Malaysian students in a nationwide learning programme aimed to give children a space to express themselves in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Voices of Covid Generation (VOCG) programme, which began in August 2020, is an initiative of the Education Ministry and Unicef Malaysia, powered by Arus Academy.
It is hoped that through the free, self-paced programme, students will learn about the global pandemic and be encouraged to reflect on the impact of Covid-19 on themselves, and to empathise with others, especially the more vulnerable communities.
As Malaysia undergoes the movement control order once again, it is even more crucial now to have a learning platform that not only gives students knowledge, but also engages them in conversations, while offering a safe space for self-expression.
According to a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Covid-19 crisis has forced school closures in 188 countries, heavily disrupting the learning process of more than 1.7 billion children, youth, and their families.
Apart from potential learning loss, absence of traditional schooling will have long-term impact on student outcomes, such as the curbing of educational aspirations and the feeling of being disengaged from school altogether.
Arus Academy content development specialist Azrina Azmi said the pandemic has not only impacted children’s education, but has also affected them at cognitive, behavioural and emotional levels.
“The VOCG programme was a response to educate and encourage young people to keep learning and sharing their unique and multiple perspectives on Covid-19. It allows them to explore their emotions, produce creative artwork and exercise agency, ” she said in a press release on Jan 25.
Children aged 11 to 17 can access VOCG online lessons, available in English and Bahasa Malaysia, at arus.cc/VOCGS. The project-based learning journey covers five milestones aligned to the national curriculum.
Students will get to discover, and reflect on, current news related to the pandemic and how adults are tackling Covid-19.
The programme was rolled out last year to 292 students and 19 teachers across Malaysia through online modules and offline learning kits. Students’ reflections were then curated in the VOCG Virtual Exhibition series in conjunction with World Children’s Day at arus.cc/voices.“We received poignant reflections, songs, poems, drawings and videos sent in by children across the country. In this rare exhibition series, we get a snapshot of how Covid-19 has impacted the lives
of our young Malaysians. You
will be surprised by their observations and how deeply they have thought about the pandemic, ” said Azrina.
Arus Academy chief executive officer and co-founder Alina Amir said that VOCG empowers children to find strength and play an active role as global citizens, giving them skills and space to express their thoughts, opinions and ideas even in times of adversity.“We as adults don’t give children enough opportunities to speak up. You will discover the voices of hope, empathy, leadership and many other powerful attributes emerging through these exhibitions, ” she added.