International Youth Day – How has the pandemic changed the lives of youth?

The United Nations General Assembly, since 1999, designated August 12 as International Youth Day. This date, recognized around the world, brings youth issues to the attention of the international community and celebrates the potential of youth as partners in today’s global society. That is why, today, we want to take the time to talk to you about issues affecting youth in Canada during this pandemic.

You should know that young people are in a period of stress, fear and anxiety. This is normal; they are worried about their future. This pandemic has had a huge impact on both their individual and collective lives. Some are confused, not understanding the new reality. Many young people recently have lost jobs and have had to make sacrifices in their social life. More work and fewer friends and acquaintances make for psychological distress for 81% of respondents, as confirmed in a Léger survey commissioned by the Union étudiante du Québec[1].

In further research, 17- to 30-year olds suffer greatly from isolation. Due to distance education, one student hasn’t been back to college in almost a year. “If I take the example of my brother who is still in high school, at least he goes to school every other day. He can see his friends.” Young people were singled out. A minority of youth were posting their gatherings on Instagram and paid the price. Who hasn’t heard this during the pandemic: “Young people are all acting the same.”

“We talk about youth, but not for the right reasons. It affects us so much not to go to school, our mental health is at stake, but nobody seems to care,” says Chloé Tremblay[2].

This demographic has been forgotten during the pandemic. Students are our future professionals. It is disturbing to read testimonies like the one of Simone Desrochers who questions her academic career. She is not convinced that she is receiving the classes she requires in order to become an expert in her field: “I have a hard time telling myself that Zoom is as effective as a classroom course,” she says[3].

What hasn’t been taken into account: these young people really do a lot of their learning by interacting in school in person with students and professors, asking questions, making connections to serve them well one day in the professional world. These days, it’s hard to always e-mail for simple questions, or for a meeting with a professor, which used to be possible during class breaks or at end of class. Studying at college and university was already difficult enough. Now, in addition to trying to manage work, school and social life, a student has to take into account all the new issues which are a part of life now, such as communication at school, lack of resources, lack of employment, and many others.

Online learning added another difficulty. And teachers also have to adapt.

Chloe notes that there may be teachers who don’t want to teach distance education courses, and so they don’t, even though this is a requirement. In one full semester, Alexane saw her philosophy teacher only once. She had two assignments due for that course.[4]  

Not all teachers are comfortable with technology or have the access to resources to teach their subject well. It is frustrating and difficult at times, and makes for a painful exchange between the two parties. Students can’t be self-taught. They go to school for the human guidance they need.

Life during the pandemic affects not only study. Have you thought about a young person trying to get a driver’s license? In one personal example, an acquaintance of mine was trying to schedule an appointment for her license for a year and a half but found it impossible. Recently, an opening became available in Toronto, a 6-hour drive from her home.

Disappointment, frustration and incomprehension … . These are three words best describing the situation of youth in Canada in 2021. Their mental health is affected. One young student says half her friends have started seeing a therapist. Others are taking antidepressants. Living accommodation, driver’s licenses, and education are former privileges now inaccessible to many. For some, socializing was paramount. Overnight, an envisioned future is no longer attainable. Youth must isolate and put life on hold, but for how long?





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