The Parallel Pandemic

Sharonika

Source: Herald on Sunday, Auckland  by Cherie Howie

New Zealand was one of the safest places during the first year of Covid. But in the wake of lockdowns and uncertainty, many young people have been blindsided by how the pandemic has affected plans for their futures, Cherie Howie writes.

When Covid-19 came to New Zealand and level 4 lockdown abruptly followed, Sharonika Prasad lost much more than just her day-to-day freedom. Aged 19, newly moved out of the home in which she’d long carried a heavy load of responsibilities, and starting a degree in occupational therapy at Auckland University of Technology North Shore, Prasad suddenly felt robbed of the milestones she’d just passed.

Prasad’s degree classes, which she’d attended in person for just two weeks, went online, where they’d stay for the rest of the year she eventually re-sat a couple of papers over summer because she “didn’t cope well with online learning”. And her housemate told Prasad the stay-at-home orders meant she had to move out, forcing the teen back to her dad’s place in Manurewa.

“I felt like my independence had been stolen from me.” She’s one of many.

“When you’re older you have a sense things can change quickly,” Julie Moore, of the Graeme Dingle Foundation, says.

“It’s quite a big thing to take in [so much change] when you’re young.” Then there are all the other pressures that come with being young, among them navigating social media, relationships, taking on tertiary study and finding a job, she says.

For Prasad, who works full-time she stays overnight as a caregiver for intellectually disabled older adults while also studying, the dream of being an occupational therapist never went away.

What has changed, though, is how she feels about living at home again and supporting her family.

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