2020 is a year best forgotten for the infamous COVID-19 Virus pandemic unleashing its fatal fury on the entire World. No country was spared as this unseen formidable foe swathe nation after nation with death and socio-economic destruction. So devastatingly contagious that the earthly planet was plunged into an unprecedented Lockdown to prevent human contact and transmission. Such an extreme response left in its wake incalculable disaster in almost every sphere of Life.
Highly developed, developing and under-developed countries were not spared the crushing effects of the unrelenting Virus. However, it is argued that the greatest ruinous effects are felt in the so-called vulnerable population. In general, the Informal Sector, but in particular school-going children.
Children from the Informal Sector traditionally experience abject poverty, gross deficiency and a poor quality of life under the most compromised conditions. The one saving Grace is that medical experts hold that at present children are not the most susceptible to the effects of the Virus. They are still not immune to the Virus but present with less severe symptoms. The myriad of deleterious and ravaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is beyond the scope of this attenuated brief.
Unemployed parents from the Informal Sector who themselves lowly schooled and struggling to eke out an existence play little or no beneficial roles in promoting their children’s educational progress during this extraordinary crisis. Domestic social ills further reduce the poorly performing academic levels of the latter.
In addition, sudden and unplanned school-closure precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic was bound to profoundly impact children from the Informal Sector. Large numbers of these children attend poorly resourced schools. It is not likely that such schools adequately prepared their impressionable charges for any transition to a highly deprived home environment.
It is moot to what extent so-called remote learning was a reality with these seriously disadvantaged children. Further, a lack of electricity and the unavailability of technology like computers, wi-fi and internet connectivity make online learning impossible. Hard copy notes and worksheets were not readily supplied. The March to September 2020 Lockdown has exacerbated what is already a parlous household situation. Without any or adequate educational stimulation these ill-equipped children are bound to have cumulative learning loss. The unequal access of technology is likely to have widened the learning gap. The return to school was necessary but almost perfunctory. The classroom contact time was reduced and almost halved with the Curriculum inevitably syncopated. The Testing programme did not encompass the breath of the Curriculum and it can be conjectured that there could have been relaxation with promotion and progression requirements. It is true that all children experienced the same scenario. The convenience of the adjusted school arrangements definitely does not enhance the academic well-being of children from impoverished and depressed socio-economic environments. Will these environmentally impaired children ever:
- …return to any semblance of normalcy?
- …cope with navigating the transition from school to the demanding home circumstance?
- …realise their full cognitive potential in an uncertain future?
There is no reference to the disruption in the lives of LSEN children who are so-called not neuro-typical. Their unyielding circumstances is a subject for its own discussion.
We are inextricably linked to the business of Education. It behooves all Psychologists, let alone Educational Psychologists to contribute to the re-building in such children’s engagement, highlight the overwhelming plight of such desperate children, play advocacy roles and mitigate the tremendous risks for one of the most neglected sectors of this vulnerable population especially during Child Protection Week and always.
Dr N Chetty-Educational Psychologist. SEPSA Vice-Chairperson. May 11,2021.