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Rough Cuts | Time for government to intervene

Who can argue with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III that malnutrition and the excessive use of gadgets have a large part in the dismal performance of Filipino students in their studies? More specifically, Duque mentioned the subjects reading, science and mathematics as those where the students’ performance these days are very much wanting.

Yes, among students belonging to the less privileged sector in society malnutrition – or the lack of proper nutrition in the food they eat on a daily basis –is easily the factor where low performance in classes can be attributed.

Even if the students’ stomachs are full because they have the opportunity to eat food three times a day, still it is not uncommon to observe a number of them physically and mentally exhausted inside their classrooms.

Why, because the food they eat may not have provided their body with the nutrients necessary to perk their physical health. Moreover, it is a given that when the body is weak, performance of the brain is weakened as well.

If at all there are a few students belonging to the marginalized sector who have excelled in their studies they may be those who are the so-called exceptions.

These days however, manufacturers of personal communications gadgets have expanded with gusto their target markets. As they see the humongous number of young people mostly in-school, as the largest possible market, the manufacturers also provided their units with all features that can entice the youth to acquire any of the gadget’s models.

Now we have mobile phones that can give its owners means to communicate through direct voice contact, through text, through e-mails, through chat and video calls in any place they want to for as long as there is signal available for the telecommunications company.

And perhaps the most important features that are installed by the gadget manufacturers to cater to youth, especially those who are in schools, are the virtual research library and the cyber games.

Of these last two features however, only the more serious among students are making the most of the research materials. Majority, even including those in their early childhood, are instead hooked to the games made accessible in the gadgets.

That could possibly be the reason why in gatherings, and even during religious services, parents give their 2-3-year old children gadgets to play on to prevent them from wandering around or making unnecessary noise.

It is also a fact that kids fed with balanced and nutritious food are those whose parents are gainfully employed and have some kind of bigger disposable income. Hence, minus being addicted to cyber games, they have the cinch to outperform others in school.

Yes, this sector of the in-school youth is not bothered by physical and mental fatigue. Their diets are proper. Thus, their mental faculty can remain sane and focused.

But again, if they are allowed excessive use of gadgets, which, in the first place their parents can somehow afford, their minds can still be distracted as their time for studies is diminished substantially by the number of hours they devote in the gadget.

And let us not forget that distraction can also affect the youth’s eating habit as well as the kind of food preferences when they are busy playing games and other entertainment features installed therein.

The outcome is, the diet with balanced nutrients provided by their parents often times remain on the table and the mouths of the young are busied chomping on junk foods that can be taken piece meal.

So, the next thing the parents will find out is the deteriorating grades of their children. In some cases parents, and the students themselves, will just be given the biggest surprise of their lives. The kids are getting obese, and in extreme situations, showing tell-tale signs of depression.

Indeed there is wisdom in Secretary Duque’s appeal to parents and those who are working as children’s care givers to find ways that they can limit the exposure of the young school children to the modern gadgets.

Secretary Duque fears that if nothing is done to curb the young students’ developing addiction to the gadgets, it is not far-fetched that their deteriorating performance in school would not just be a simple education issue but a public health issue as well.

According to the Health chief the Filipino students fared worst in reading, science and math subjects based on the latest result of the Programme for International Students Assessment where the Philippines is covered.

Isn’t it time for government to intervene?

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