ELS EFECTES DEL COVID-19

An hour-long debate with "the generation that no one cares for"

High school students regret that they are blamed for the covid contagion

Athos takes the floor, towards the end of the debate, and states: "We have all been able to do bad things and it is unfair that we only blame young people, when no one has thought of us. We are the generation that the virus least damages, and that is why we are the generation that nobody cares about". The words of this high school student from the Col·legi Claret in Barcelona sum up the opinions expressed during the hour-long debate with the rest of his classmates, in which they regretted the fact that politicians did not take into account the needs of adolescents during the lockdown and at the same time criminalized them because of the increase in contagion. "It's like we're not part of society, like we just have to be at home and that's it", he says.

Students are resigned about the moment they have to live in. They understand that they can't complain much - they're young, healthy and don't have big responsibilities - but they raise their voices to make it clear that they too have the right to protest: their classes were cancelled overnight, they finished a difficult school year by following on-line classes as best as they could, they've spent months away from friends, hooked on their screens, and no one has asked them how they feel, and what they need. On top of that, they say, they have had to feel that they are part of the collective that has pushed Spain into the second wave of the virus.

"The same people who say that, are the ones who later went to a massive dinner", says Lluc, referring to the controversial evening in which 150 people from the political, business and media elite coincided in Madrid. "It's true that there are young people who don't follow the rules, but that doesn't mean we're all the same. Let them find another excuse, because I will not change what I do. I know what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong", he says.

"Everybody has a go at young people"

Boys and girls feel like they're scapegoats. "When there's a problem, you always have to look for someone to blame, and we young people have paid for it", says Andrea, who points out that the government's "contradictory measures" have not helped either. "Does the virus only act after 10 p.m?" she wonders, in relation to the curfew. Laura elaborates on this criticism: "Everybody criticizes young people and they close bars, but then public transport is full of people. The government makes the restrictions that interest them".

Pere Parés, who is a tutor in the first year of highschool, is in charge of the debate. He begins by handing out some cards that will have to be raised according to their replies. He asks them, first, how they are doing and how they have managed during lockdown. There is quite a division: half have raised the yellow colour - they are distressed - and the other half the blue colour - which means that they are handling the situation well.

There are arguments of all kinds. Helena had a hard time with online classes. "I had trouble following them", she says. Andrea's anxiety, however, was not so much academic as emotional: "So much time living with the same people and not going out... I went crazy!"

Lluc still bears the effects of a socially devastating lockdown: "I didn't understand anything through online classes and I had to fill up all the time I had. I went on Instagram 240 times a day and now it's very difficult not to go on Instagram 240 times a day". He is tired of doing nothing but going from home to school, and from school to back home.

Young people have been affected by the closure of gyms and after-school clubs, because they were the places where they disconnected from school obligations. "I don't feel so good because I can't play sports", says Arnau. Nerea has also been left without this escape route: "I used to go to the gym and now I have to do it at home, but I think it sucks". That's why Laura values being in a "bubble group" in after-school classes. "At home I am more lazy and I wouldn't want to do anything, and I like training because it helps me to disconnect".

Family tension

Athos confirms the theory that "when you do nothing, you tend to do even less". With no extracurriculars, he disconnects by looking at Instagram. "And I've also discovered television and family". However, spending 24/7 with family has not been a pleasant experience in other cases. "We've never argued so much. I've discovered that we worked well separately, that we weren't used to being together so much", Andrea notes.

The boys and girls at Claret agree on focusing on the present - they are aware that everything can change from one moment to the next. "I try not to think too much about the future, because I know that we are losing a few years of adolescence that will hardly come back and I am very sad" says Martina. Nerea points out the experiences that the coronavirus has taken away from them: "We will never be 18 again. Obviously we think about what is happening in hospitals, but also about what we are losing". When Jana thinks about the future, she imagines it without the virus, as if everything had already ended.

Another coincidence, before I finish: few would endure a new lockdown. They are mentally and emotionally exhausted. "I did my job and stayed home. It's not my problem if those who had to solve the de-escalation didn't", Tomás bluntly states. Jana warns that the restrictions, including those on young people, have not been well communicated: "We've only been told that we have to do this and we can't do that, but we haven't been taught what happens if we don't. We haven't been told that people our age have died too". He makes it clear that politicians have the right to ask people for "sacrifices" "only if they do the same". The generation that "no one cares about" has a clear mind. And it wants to make itself heard.

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