NUTP urges better mental and physical health care for children staying at home for prolonged periods

PETALING JAYA: A child’s natural development may be affected by prolonged home-based teaching and learning, says the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP).

Its secretary-general Harry Tan said (pic) psychomotor development of primary school students could be hampered if kept inside their homes and not allowed to go outside for physical activity.

“They cannot run, jump, laugh and enjoy the company of other children so in a way, they may not be able to grow holistically,” he said.

He said children who are confined to their homes, especially those from poor families, could feel isolated as they are unable to access their teachers because they do not have gadgets or an Internet connection.

“This does not augur well for creating a balanced society,” he said.

Teenagers, Tan said, are inclined to be individualistic and interaction with their peers would only be online.

“It is also difficult to have group interaction except for pairing communication, hence resulting in stunted interactive growth.

“As they are also confined to a limited space and limited family members to discuss personal problems, they will look to the net.

“More often than not, they (could) get scammed or (accept) skewered opinions that will not help their mental well-being,” he said.

Tan said these issues need to be addressed by trained professionals, psychologists and psychiatrists.

“Most important is to ensure that the poor have access to teachers, no matter what.

“If there is no connectivity, other methods must be in place and it must be interactive even if it takes time, for example correspondence learning,” he said.

SOLS Health research and advocacy director Dr Arman Rashid said schools play an important role for socio-emotional development along with education.

He said with repeated closures, students risk facing burnout, which leads to physical and mental exhaustion.

“In the last year, we have seen more children or students feeling lonely, isolated and detached due to school closures,” he said.

He added that there are long-term implications of the pandemic for both mental health and students’ education, which can affect children’s psycho-social functioning and daily routines, including academic performance, relationships and morale.

Dr Arman said children need to be provided with emotional support from teachers, parents and peers during this difficult time.

“We must adopt a preventive approach with parents and caregivers playing an important role in addressing emotional challenges faced by students.

“This requires a supportive environment for fostering emotional expression and help-seeking at home,” he said, adding that parents need to practise active listening and acknowledging the children’s feelings to foster this environment.

Through early intervention by caregivers, teachers and parents and detecting early warning signs such as difficulties in concentration, frequent headaches and irritability, Dr Arman believes the long-term conditions from mental health challenges can be avoided.

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