Coronavirus: As schools shut down across the globe we take a look at how it's affecting students and parents
As the world prepares to fight the most dangerous battle of all times against coronavirus, the authorities around the world are imposing lockdowns and urging people to self-isolate themselves. There have been a series of lockdown drills in countries including the United States, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Portugal and the United Kingdom. But will shutting down of schools help? Most of the schools provide basic necessities to children from low-income families and homeless families. How are they being affected by the lockdown?
Most countries have urged to avoid public gatherings or close restaurants, bars and schools, asking people to avoid going to public places to avoid getting in contact with the virus. "This is the defining global health crisis of our time," said World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "The days, weeks and months ahead will be a test of our resolve, a test of our trust in science and a test of solidarity."
In recent days, school districts across the world have closed in an effort to slow the spread of the virus and keep students, teachers, staff and families safe.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had expressed the fear that if schools shut down, “they will be done for the year, done for the school year, maybe even for the calendar year.” He continued by stating that the nation’s largest public school system would close on Monday, March 16, until at least April 20, if not much longer as the spread of coronavirus threatens the health of the people worldwide.
California Gov Gavin Newsom said “6.1 million students are out of school statewide due to closures over coronavirus concerns”. According to Newsom, 98.8% of schools are closed. He went on to say don't expect schools to open up in a few weeks.
Other countries have also shut down schools for a period of time until further notice. As the countries try to figure a way to improve their education system with the lockdown imposed, they need to figure a way to reach out to the lower socioeconomic groups. Countries like China have started reopening schools but most of them still remain closed whereas other countries like Austria, Germany, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, Yemen, Zambia and India have closed down their schools until further notice.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected calls for an immediate school shutdown, saying, “We think at the moment of balance it is much better if we can keep schools open for all sorts of reason.” He believes that schools being asked to shut down will make matters worse as many children will be forced to stay with their grandparents, who are vulnerable to the infection.
While many might think that it is necessary to close down the schools for a matter of time, they do not realize the impact the lockdown of schools have on students and parents. Community schools cater to students from low-income families and homeless students, who rely on schools for meals, proper restroom facilities, child care and health care. With the schools being shut down and the parents still working, it is a challenge to take care of the children.
To try to battle this challenge, New York came up with the idea of turning some of the schools into emergency child care centers for those parents for whom it is essential to work. This plan might have flaws since it is advised not to have a huge gathering but there is not much to do in cases like these. For a while, de Blasio did reject the idea of shutting down the schools saying that they need to remain open in case the health care workers needed child care while fighting the pandemic but since the spread was out of control he had to make the decision with a heavy heart.
Millions of students are idled, kept away from their schools in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. In areas where schools are on hiatus, parents are scrambling to find child care and figure out ways to keep up with their kids' educations. School closures have significant negative effects on low-income families who disproportionately lack access to technology, internet, nutritious food and childcare services, as well as students with disabilities who require individualized education plans. UNESCO said it was working with countries affected by the outbreak "to find hi-tech, low-tech and no-tech solutions to assure the continuity of learning".
To battle with the food insecurity and further e-learning, Miami-Dade county is trying to figure out a way to help the socioeconomic class students by distributing food to students who rely on schools for meals. They have also distributed mobile devices to students who did not have access to it to continue learning remotely while schools are closed. This might seem like an easy solution but it is not. With about 849.4 million children and youth across the world, it is hard to keep a track of the socioeconomic status and trying to provide them with facilities during the time of the pandemic. Hopefully, countries around the world with the help of UNESCO find a way to battle with this dilemma helping the children across the countries.