As a parent of a university computer science student, these are just a few of the things that university students have to think about these days, it’s important to remember that everybody is going through a difficult time right now.
Everyone goes through hard times and handles the situation differently. People cope in different way but that is what makes us who we are. Some scenarios may be more hard than others, but that does not take away from the fact that you are going through a hard time. Whether you are the one going through the tough situation or the supporter of those going through the tough situation, I write to you to address that having a daughter at university during a pandemic is a stressful time for computer science students with many unknowns and uncertainties.
Some Ministers in the education ecosytem and political sphere are too busy not thinking about how to support university students (the future generation) given the many measures and restrictions demanded upon them at times labelled confusing that they lose focus on themselves. Reminded by lecturers, principals and those that don’t understand what it’s like to write a dissertation “ make sure to stay up on your own computer science student schedule to ensure that you are okay too”!!.
At the beginning of the pandemic, like the majority of other families in our position, I felt overwhelmed by the bold, seemingly spontaneous choice my daughter made; continuing with her studies at university. I had been watching the news reports and knew the situation was spreading, yet naively believed it would come to nothing substantial. I remember the giddy feeling trapped inside me as my daughter informed me of one single email forcing her university world to concave around her and I, and the looming sense of numbness that followed and continues to follow even now almost one year since lockdowns became second nature.
Over a year ago ‘lockdown‘ was an alien concept, but it was to be an occurrence that would alter our lives over the next year and our perspectives for perhaps the rest of our lifetimes.
University work was arguably more difficult back then. Lecturers were unprepared, and knew little of what to do under the circumstances of an up and coming pandemic. Back then they recognised the struggles of students and pushed towards a plan in our favour.
Now, just under a year after that decision was announced, computer science students are in the same situation. We are still in the depths of a pandemic. We are still in lockdown. We are still battling with the same traumas of everyday life, except now we lack the same level of hope and resilience that was carried by all during the first lockdown. Except now we have been urged to stay at home with little warning, surrounded by conditions not equipped for the stresses and strains of the virtual academic world. Except now we receive little more than a special COVID-19 special considerations form to soak up the blood, sweat and tears of our efforts.
Universities simply cannot expect our sons and daughters to perform at the same standard with a pandemic in the background, as well as a decreased quality of teaching, alongside the reduction of social activities to help implement that work-life balance that is talked about in society so often. While assignments may have been adapted and adjusted for the pandemic’s continuation, the computer science students have not. The constant change in routine has personally caused computer science students to feel waves of demotivation and sadness,(I am witness to online zoom calls), and looking at results obtained so far has also had a knock-on effect towards grades, whereas the students have been forced to carry on learning this way since the pandemic started, with little concession for their ongoing assignments and exams? computer science students cannot simply complete their work late because they did not feel motivated or cannot work through the conditions of university new term-time addresses — they must still be submitted.
Although I think no detriment would decrease the value of my daughters degree, and I can understand why it would be unreasonable to demand this in many ways, extensions and special considerations forms are simply not enough.
I admire the lecturers for their ability to carry on and adapt in a situation that is undoubtedly stressful for them too, with children to home-school and an environment that perhaps nowhere near parallels the atmosphere university presents. However, like other adults in the working world, they are paid for their efforts. On the other hand, I watch politicians debate whether students should be refunded for their accommodation and have university tuition fees reduced to acknowledge the drop in standard. Instead, I am greeted with a tennis match batting back and forth between ministers placing the responsibility on individual institutions and institutions directing computer science student complaints towards government ministers.
To top it off news reporters focus on how students are supposedly spreading the virus, causing the pandemic to escalate and do not fall into the category of having a vaccination passport to enter pubs in the short term, as this is the kind of news that gets readers’ attention and ultimately gives them business. Very rarely do I hear sympathy towards our computer science students and the younger generations struggling situation. This is simply because the stereotypes placed upon us makes it seem like students are only causing a fuss because students cannot go to the nightclubs and bars as part of their university experience.
Our world-leading universities, which thrive on being global institutions, should always at the forefront. Both Government and the IT computer science higher education sector affirmatively with urgency must focus on working together to ensure existing rules and processes favourably enhance our computer science students university experiences and positive outcomes.