Omicron Cases Rising: Students in Bangladesh Face New Surge of Uncertainty
During the ongoing third year of the pandemic, it seems like the sharp rise of another ghastly variant, “Omicron”, has taken flight. With another possible lockdown as well as restrictions of movements on the horizon, another period of uncertainty and vagueness about one’s future might also make a massive appearance.
According to a daily bulletin issued by DGHS, several cities, including the capital Dhaka have been announced as “red zones” with a massive surge of affected and death tolls the country has seen since 12th August last year. The number of deaths is something that looks more horrifying than it was just a month or two earlier, with almost an average of 15 deaths in the last three days. As stated in the DGHS dashboard, till 23rd January, there has been the highest cases of affected with a huge number of 10906. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged the general populace to get vaccinated as soon as possible and tackle this new rise of threat by strictly abiding by all necessary health protocols.
This recent threat of lockdown and isolation has only added to the prevailing mental challenges created by the pandemic before. Another week or two of isolation might trigger the last straw of mental strength some are holding on to. Ahona, a university student living in Dhaka, has been planning on going abroad for higher studies and working hard for that since she can remember. However, she has already spent three years of her classes in Australia from Dhaka online because of the pandemic. With the rise of one variant after another, it’s still unpredictable when she might get out of the house to embrace her newfound adulthood.
Another college going student, Samin, has become a whole other person due to this isolation. He claims he used to be one of the friendliest people in his class. Now he can barely manage a five-minute conversation with even his closest friends. This unfamiliar feeling of anxiety and overthinking when interacting with other people has made Samin lonely for the first time in his life.
Many young people like Ahona and Samin have been facing loneliness, social anxiety and uncertainty about a future that does not seem to be happening anytime soon at all. According to a study done by UNICEF, almost 27% of adolescents reported having anxiety and 15% suffered from depression during this chaotic time. However, in the prospect of Bangladesh, a research published on the “ScienceDirect” website in June 2021 shows that “Young adults had a significantly higher proportion of anxiety (67.2% vs 61.1%), and depression (78.2% vs 68.7%) than adults.” As we head into the third year of this pandemic, once again, with the possibility of schools and universities closing for an uncertain period of time, this fear of academic as well as social gaps is showing up among the young generation. According to research done by UNICEF, “The disruption to routines, education, recreation, as well as concern for family income and health, is leaving many young people feeling afraid, angry, and concerned for their future.”
Not to mention, being forced to stay in sometimes unhealthy and chaotic households, many young people are missing out on their ability to engage socially in other circles and portray their potential as active members of society. Another problem among these people, especially the college or university going ones, is that they can barely earn their part-time livelihood because of the shortage of employment and constant restrictions of movement and whatnot. By being without work, studies and hang-out with friends to look forward to, it’s not surprising to see a huge number of youth being grasped by the claws of various mental health issues.
With the most recent declaration of the government to once again shut down all educational institutions from 21st January till 6th February, it’s horrifying and alarming to think about the repetition of all these sorts of challenges one has to face to fight through this pandemic.