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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: We must support the young inheriting post-virus society

Rika Kayama (Mainichi)

Recently it's been reported that there are university students in Japan who may not be able to continue studying due to their parents' loss of income as a result of the novel coronavirus.

A survey by student groups targeting people studying medicine found that around 7% of respondents were reportedly considering giving up their studies. Even at national and public universities' faculties of medicine, there are costs attached to obtaining study materials including textbooks, stethoscopes and other items. Students also spend many days working into the night in their practical training, and time to take on part-time work is limited. Even with all of that, it's a sorry state of affairs that people who worked hard to pass admissions tests into these medical faculties are having to quit.

At the university I teach at, all lessons are now being done online. Even in this setting, students occasionally open up about their difficulties. Some say that their part-time jobs stopped and they are out of money. Others express relief that they are employed, but are concerned about a sheer lack of measures against infection at their workplaces.

There are also several who work at pharmacies, and some have told me they've been hurt amid people's scramble to get masks. One smiled mirthlessly through the screen as they told me about their distress after customers accused them of hiding masks from sale.

But at the same time students are working hard to adapt to the present circumstances, and many of them talk about a bright future in which society improves after the coronavirus crisis. They say things like, "People see now how much they can get done at home, so our lifestyle will definitely improve," and, "Now you can live anywhere and telework from there, so I think regional areas will flourish again." Another said, "While people have been staying indoors, many people have realized the value of live performances and sports."

Although I think these views are a little too optimistic, it also makes me feel that it's great they can think with an eye toward what comes next, and that maybe they will be able to make that future happen.

We adults must do whatever we can to back young people wanting to find something good amid this coronavirus chaos and thinking about turning this crisis into an opportunity to make society better. To reduce by even one person the number of students forced to end their studies due to financial difficulties, I think we should be going ahead with all forms of support to help them.

With the state of emergency lifted across the country, it's probably the case that many people are thinking that we must first get the economy back up and running. But I want to remind them not to forget the students in all of this. They will be the ones who shoulder the post-coronavirus world. I want to do everything I can to support them, too.

(Japanese original by Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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