Asia and the Pacific Region Assessing the Impacts of COVID-19 from a Range of Angles

Asia and the Pacific Region Assessing the Impacts of COVID-19 from a Range of Angles

The Asia and the Pacific Youth as Researchers regional teams, each with its set research compass assessing the impacts of Covid 19 from different angles, have come to agree on how detrimental those impacts are on youth. Those negative impacts include the lack of accessibility to mental health services and the rising concerns about the quality of education while transitioning to digital platforms. Yet, this article also points to how youth have been proactive and responsive to barriers, exemplified by their engagement with different agencies and organizations in volunteering on various frontlines to help reduce vulnerability to the pandemic.

First off is the Asia and the Pacific Team, whose research assesses the barriers in accessing mental health services for university students. Based in Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, India, and Indonesia, the Asia and the Pacific Team is led by Ayesha P. Mohanty and Shivangshi Mitra. They are working on how the well-being of youth has been affected by the global Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has majorly affected the allocation of resources in different sectors, including the health sector. Resources of the sort encompass shortage in medical supplies and lack of sufficient technologies to be able to access remote healthcare options. Accordingly, the lack of said resources have set up barriers which have impeded accessibility of essential health services such as mental health care for university students.

Besides the lack of resources, myths and stigmas have shaped some barriers to mental health services such as the mistaken belief that mental health issues can be treated through willpower and strong self-belief. Their research accordingly aims to identify the issues that prevent university students in the Asia and the Pacific region from accessing mental health services, by identifying the resources and structures in place and analyzing the amount that is currently accessible to the target group. 

Proposals for measures, through legal mandate and governance, are in the planning and the aim is to make mental health services more accessible to the target group through creating robust social structures and support systems for university students. The team plans to examine respondents' concerns whilst collecting data. Their concerns include confidentiality of sensitive information, high costs associated with accessing mental health facilities, the lack of family and social support systems, and insufficient confidence in the abilities of the service provider(s).

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Not only has the pandemic halted accessibility to healthcare services such as mental health, it has also affected the educational experience of university students as they transitioned to online platforms upon closure of campuses to contain the spread of the virus. Based in Australia, the East Asia-Pacific team, led by Astuti Kusumaningrum, are working on the research “Transitioning to Online Platforms: How COVID-19 restriction affects Higher Education student’s learning in East Asia & Australia”.

A distinctive rise in online learning brings students new challenges to their study life. As in-person courses transform to remote instruction, the East Asia team seeks to explore how higher education students perceive this change, particularly exploring their peer's experiences. "During the Covid-19 pandemic, there are challenges and barriers, but positive things do happen. We want to capture and understand this transition," Kusumaningrum stated when explaining the motives of research. What’s more, adults and teachers potentially assume that young generations are able to shift to online learning quickly; "However, we want to show that even though we are digital, and familiar with devices and technology, we struggled with transitioning to online learning," team member, Yuria Kub added.

The team aims to survey students from five respective countries that its team members come from, namely China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia and Australia. 

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A wise poet once said, “amidst the darkness, a speck of light is a ray of hope.” Based in India. The South Asia team, led by Shivangi Mehra, are working on the research “The youth volunteering experience during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Asia”.

Despite the stress and disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, young volunteers ranging from digital activists to social workers are working relentlessly on the frontlines of supporting the vulnerable to mitigate the impact of the crisis and make positive changes within their communities. Their research focuses on the incentives of youth volunteers, as well as, the benefits of volunteering in the matter of skills and capacity development: “There is a potential policy gap here in terms of making volunteering experiences more valuable. We need to think about how to make volunteers benefit from their experience also,” Mehra stated. 

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With the close teamwork across these groups and the support from UNESCO, these teams are demonstrating confidence in conducting this research and overcoming obstacles to ensure group cohesion, recruitment of adequate sample sizes, and distribution of surveys that are culturally appropriate and inclusive in nature. 

Stay tuned for more updates about the progress of our Asia and the Pacific teams and all of our Youth as Researchers teams by following the links below.

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