Coronavirus: What school closures mean for our kids

Coronavirus: What school closures mean for our kids
Coronavirus: What school closures mean for our kids

With the first school term coming to an early end, on 18 March as opposed to 20 March, and extended until after the Easter weekend (10-13 April) many parents might be wondering what this means for our kids.

Based on past school closures in other countries, we can expect some negative fallout, and parents should be aware and prepared to take steps to help children to continue with their schooling once the Covid-19 inspired National State of Disaster blows over. 

So, what to look out for?

Falling behind

While pupils are out of school they will also be falling behind the curriculum. 

During the 2014 Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone the government provided educational radio programmes to listeners five days a week while schools were closed, maintaining a link to the curriculum for the duration.

Currently, there is no word from government on catching up on the curriculum, other than President Ramaphosa's announcement that the time will be made up by shortening the June and September school holidays.

A growing number of schools are however adopting technology to teach remotely, and online schooling by brick-and-mortar schools is becoming more common every day. 

The Department of Basic Education has made various educational resources available, and is encouraging students to keep up their studies. 

Find resources on their website here, as well as past papers and study guides on Parent24 here. 

Writing exams?

Already Parent24 has received numerous messages asking if the June exams will be pushed out to later in the year, giving pupils a chance to catch up.

The DBE hasn't yet released anything official on this topic, but as soon as we hear anything on that front, we'll let our readers know.

School dropout increases

UK study also showed that the longer a child is out of school the less likely they are to go back once school starts again. 

This proved true for about 15% of children after schools re-opened after being closed for nine months during the Ebola outbreak in 2014. 

The Zero Dropout Campaign is calling on parents and communities to do their part to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 fallout now. 

"School closures, even for short periods, carry economic and social costs, especially in disadvantaged communities, so we appreciate the fact that the Department of Basic Education has not taken this decision lightly," said Merle Mansfield, Programme Director of the Zero Dropout Campaign, in a statement.

Vulnerable students

A complete school closure can negatively impact disadvantaged and vulnerable students, who rely on school for a meal or a safe place to be during the day.

"Many children rely on their school for meals, which is why we are calling on communities to rally behind organisations that are working to fill the gap while schools are shut," says Mansfield

Some organisations have stepped up to fill this gap, already, but more will need to be done if schools remain closed for a longer period. 

Also see: This is how the coronavirus has inspired South Africans to do good

What this means for parents

Parents who cannot take time off of work to watch younger kids at home may also struggle to find alternate childcare, and those who are forced to take time off may lose income, or risk their jobs.

As stressful as this is for adults, it's worse for children.

"Children might become anxious and overwhelmed during this period, particularly if they are socially isolated, so it’s important to speak to them about their concerns in an open, honest and reassuring manner," Mansfield explained.

"We believe that every child deserves a champion, particularly during times of uncertainty and change," he said.

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