The kids are not alright

EYES WIDE OPENIris Gonzales – The Philippine Star

October 6, 2021 | 12:00am

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Over a year into the pandemic and online schooling has become a tiring and difficult way of learning for many Filipino students.

The Philippines is now one of only two countries in the world, together with Venezuela, that have not started in-person classes since the pandemic began, “affecting the right to learn of more than 27 million Filipino students,” according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in a report in August.

Other countries that kept schools closed, like Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, have moved to reopen them at the end of last month.

Lost generation

The result is alarming. I predict the existence of a lost generation in the years to come – adults who will have difficulties facing the real world because they failed to gain independence in school; weren’t able to develop meaningful relationships with teachers and peers; and didn’t get the chance to learn life skills because of homeschool isolation.

There are other problems – learning delays, mental health issues, and abuse that could negatively affect a child’s well-being, UNICEF said in its report.

It’s really no secret that the number of years of education a child receives directly affects his or her future.

Poorer communities

The problem is multiplied several times in slum areas and far-flung villages where students do not have access to online tools.

UNICEF urged governments to reopen schools for in-person learning as soon as possible, and to provide a comprehensive recovery response for students. It urged governments to focus on three key priorities for recovery in schools – programs to bring the youth back in school; effective remedial learning to help students catch up on lost learning; and support for teachers to address learning losses and incorporate digital technology into their teaching.

As it is now, both students and teachers are dealing with a great deal of online learning-induced anxiety and overwhelming feelings of isolation.

Vaccines

This must come to an end and the only way forward is to vaccinate our young ones.

The government must accelerate the vaccination roll out for the younger population and schools must start preparing for the resumption of in-person classroom learning. A hybrid set-up may be done as part of a transition period after students have been vaccinated.

Those whose parents will opt not to vaccinate their children must see a school environment that can be safe and conducive. Classrooms may be retrofitted for social-distancing protocols or schools may even conduct classes outside school buildings – in the covered courts, in wide open spaces or in spacious cafeterias. Government must also provide free and regular COVID-19 testing in schools.

Interventions

For now, parents can only do so much to help students cope with the difficult online learning environment at home.

These include proactively helping students cope with stress, ensuring that the house is equipped with proper online tools and helping them get enough break between classes.

Children also need to engage in physical and outdoor activities. There are also free activities and non-academic workshops available online.

Kwentoon

I also came across a platform that hosts comics for kids. Since the introduction of Anime and the Korean wave in the country, manga and web cartoons have garnered quite a following in the country.

Our local komiks industry does not fall behind. With the recently concluded first season of Trese, Pinoy komiks have proven to be world class.

Because of the pandemic, digital comics hosting platforms have popped up. One start-up is Kwentoon or Kwentong Cartoon, an entertainment startup for kids and teens, which aims to improve readership by delivering content that promotes camaraderie, resilience, and perseverance.

Launched in 2020, Kwentoon has curated works targeted for teens and kids. It also conducts workshops for all ages to encourage the young ones to create their own comics.

Founders Isa and Juan Songco wanted to promote quality stories that were “cool” enough for older kids and teens – much like Marvel and Shounen jump.

“One of the problems of the current entertainment industry is that there is a gap in the content provided. We see a lot on YouTube Kids such as CocoMelon for babies and toddlers, but not much for older kids and teens who are going through so much, especially during the pandemic, where they can’t even go out or see their friends. They are provided with limited options to watch or read.”

It may be worth a try because studies have shown that comics have been proven effective in complementing teaching materials, enabling students to learn better.

Getting their lives back

Kids, indeed, are going through so much in this time of COVID-19, and today’s older generation owe it to them to try every possible measure to help them get back their normal lives.

As it is now, they are languishing in their homes, their childhood and teenage years disappearing with the hands of time.

 

 

Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com



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