Pandemic Leaves Schoolchildren Vulnerable

We are doing what we have to do to survive the Covid-19 pandemic, however, we will be self-sabotaging if we didn’t recognise the fruit of our self-preservation may as well cause further disaster.

Lockdown restrictions disrupted several things, the economy, and work and life routines among others.

However, the most disrupted group in our society has been the children.

Tossed into a confusing time with little if any of the survival tools like grown-ups, children have had to adapt to a life without stability.

School is supposed to be a safe space for children. 

However, measures to tackle the pandemic – social distancing and regular hand washing – have been difficult to follow at public high schools.

Some schools have poor sanitation, no water, and overcrowded classrooms.

Many schools have opted for the rotational system – with classes being divided into groups that attend school on alternate days.

Millions of children are vulnerable at their homes, where they are left on their own.

Apart from lost schooling time, the unsupervised children are also exposed to bad things they would otherwise have not known about if they had been at school.

Vulnerable children are exposed to all sorts of dangers and abuse. 

Furthermore, traditional methods of teaching and learning have been disrupted with those without access to technology being left behind. 

Before the pandemic schoolchildren spent all school days in the classroom.

But now schoolchildren only spend two to three days a week in class. 

Yet they are expected to cope independently, learn, and grasp concepts as they had been doing before. 

Add to this, they also have to deal with the external stress of restrictions – they can not visit friends and relatives.

We cannot, in our right minds, expect that the children will not be affected by the changes brought about by the pandemic.

Some of the high school learners involved in Valued Citizens programmes have been reporting the impact of the rotations on their lives. 

Many of them feel ignored, uncared for, and stressed with how the curriculum is being delivered to them. 

A learner recently said the rotation system put the right to education in jeopardy. Learners were being left to fend for themselves.

As a result, many children are dropping out of school. 

Staying at home most of the time has exposed them to the state of joblessness in their communities.

Even though parents see their children are spending a lot of time at home, many fail to enforce studying and instead assign chores.

They are told to clean the house, do laundry, and take care of their siblings or older family members.

Owing to these endless chores, learners never get to do their schoolwork when they are at home. 

In Limpopo, some of the principals from public schools have begun doing home visits to motivate parents to value their children’s education.

The principals help parents to develop routines that allow learners time to do their school work. 

Some learners feel they have missed out on so much learning there is no point in going back to school.

It’s been a struggle for schoolchildren and teachers alike.

Teachers have had their challenges such as having to do the same lesson more than once to accommodate rotation and adjusting the time to complete the curriculum requirements. 

Teachers complain that during the hard lockdowns many children lost interest in school.

Public school teachers struggle the most because they have bigger classes. 

Some learners are doing part-time jobs or involved in informal businesses instead of doing their schoolwork at home. 

Children are being left with high levels of vulnerability that threaten their education and career dreams. 

They can’t be children anymore because now they have to carry the responsibility of their parents. 

The largest impact of all of this in the future will be on the economy, the skills gap will grow and so will dependency on the government dashing the hopes of young people to break the poverty cycle. 

It is high time every child returned to normalcy, behind a desk five days a week, learning in a safe and conducive environment. 

*Author Carole Podetti-Ngono, Valued Citizens Initiative’s Managing Director