Depending on where you live on the planet, it’s been about a year since earthling leaders, to protect humans from COVID, advised, urged, and ordered their people to hunker down in their homes—among other protective measures. Certainly, these efforts have limited the disease’s spread and deadly impact. Some day in the hopefully not too distant future we will act with the belief that this plague is mostly behind us, but years will pass before we fully know its devastating effects. So too with the necessary safety measures we’ve put ourselves through.
As always, life involves trade-offs, and living as if under home arrest brings its own consequences. Before this forced social experiment, we might have given lip service to the importance of social aspects of human life, but now we’ve seen what happens when people live in a socially-deprived environment. Children, especially, are at risk.
Though far less likely to contract COVID than adults, remote learning for children puts them at risk for a host of problems, as pointed out recently by Nick Triggle of BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-55863841 “From increasing rates of mental health problems to concerns about rising levels of abuse and neglect and the potential harm being done to the development of babies, the pandemic is threatening to have a devastating legacy on the nation’s young.
“The closure of schools is, of course, damaging to children’s education. But schools are not just a place for learning. They are places where kids socialise, develop emotionally and, for some, a refuge from troubled family life.”
The comprehensive article cites British government research showing significant increase in mental health issues for children in 2020 compared to 2017, and quotes Professor Russell Viner’s pithy comment to members of parliament: “When we close schools we close their lives.”
For the disabled, the consequences of closed schools have been dire, in some cases resulting in children being essentially “’incarcerated’ in their homes,” as the director of England’s Council for Disabled Children put it.
Closer to home, Washington Post writers Donna St. George and Valerie Strauss look unflinchingly at mental health consequences of closed schools, another article that I recommend. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/student-mental-health-pandemic/2021/01/21/3d377bea-3f30-11eb-8db8-395dedaaa036_story.html American data show similarly devastating consequences of school closure.
A few days ago, a friend shared the February 11th Facebook post by Christine Derengowski, Writer in which she testifies to the challenges of being the COVID-era parent-teacher for her first-grade son, and writes movingly about her seven-year-old’s perceived failure at being a distance-education first-grader, Lucky for the little guy, Mom experienced an epiphany about the struggle that he and his cohorts are facing, and met him where he was. https://herviewfromhome.com/author/christine-derengowski/
She called him a superhero, language that surely caught his attention.
“I said, ‘Do you know that no kids in the history of kids have ever had to do what you’re doing right now? No kids in the history of kids have ever had to do school at home, sitting in their bedroom, watching their teacher on a computer. You and your friends are making history.’”
She believed he deserved and needed to hear the praise.
“We’ve thanked everyone from healthcare workers to grocery store employees but we haven’t thanked the kids enough for bearing the burden of what we’ve put on their shoulders this year.
“We’ve said kids are resilient, and they are. But they are the real superheroes in this whole scenario for having ZERO say in their lives but doing their best to adjust every day.”
I’ll close this longish post with a heads-up on another powerful article on the subject. Kudos to NBC’s Erin Einhorn. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/education/covid-having-devastating-impact-children-vaccine-won-t-fix-everything-n1251172
As always, individuals with pre-existing socio-economic and physical and mental health conditions are over-represented on the COVID school-closure casualty list. This pandemic and the unintended consequences of safety measures are kicking those who are most vulnerable when they are down. When this pandemic is “over,” it won’t be over for everybody. We cannot forget them.
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Ned Bachus is the author of Open Admissions (Wild River Books, 2017) and of the TURNING POINTS blog on nedbachus.com and on his OPEN ADMISSIONS Facebook Page. City of Brotherly Love (Fleur-de-Lis Books), his book of stories, was awarded the 2013 IPPY Gold Medal for Literary Fiction.