More than 1,800 people lost their lives when Hurricane Katrina rips through the Gulf Coast in the United States in 2005. After the storm, 372,000 children did not have a home to live in. Schools closed for long periods of time. In fact, 100 public schools were never able to open again due to damage sustained in the storm. Eventually, those children did return to school, but recovery was hampered by the aftermath of the trauma.
Long after the floodwaters receded, children were still experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. When a study was conducted five years later, it found that the displaced children remained at least one academic year behind their peers who were not displaced.
The Effects of the Global Pandemic
A viral pandemic and a tropical storm bear little resemblance to each other on a superficial level. However, natural disasters can provide insight when more than 1.3 children all around the world are not able to go to school. Many parents, teachers, and officials are wondering whether these children will experience long-term adverse effects because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The early signs are not encouraging. According to studies, children’s mental health and educational attainment are detrimentally affected when diseases or natural disasters such as earthquakes or storms hit their areas.
At the University of Melbourne, Lisa Gibbs, the Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program director, says that there is consistency in the impact on humans when it comes to recovering from hazards such as these no matter what the particular circumstances are.
Distance learning has been adopted during the pandemic by many schools. Using Zoom or YouTube to present lessons or the online Google Classroom portal, teachers are learning how to provide material for students to work with.
However, the evidence is mixed when comparing the efficacy of online learning to in-person learning, as with school for the disabled it is not so straight forward on how to teach the children from home. This switch follows a trend commonly seen following a natural disaster: the students experiencing the most adverse effects come from backgrounds of economic hardship.
Evaluating children during lockdown is impossible. However, the amount of time children actually spends learning online can be evaluated. An app that polls teachers, Sutton Trust and Teacher Tapp, finds that state school students are half as likely to access lessons online than their private school contemporaries. Students from the working-class are experiencing significant decreases in their work’s quality and spend fewer hours studying during the lockdown.
Teacher Tapp’s co-founder, Laura McInernery, reports data suggesting that less than an hour a day is given to children in less advantaged areas by 55% of teachers. Prior to the outbreak, online learning tools were more likely to have employed online learning tools. Affluent students are more likely to have study areas at home, a reliable Internet source, and computers to use. The differences are stark: less than 10% of state school students have online classes for six hours each school day while more than 50% of public schools get that level of education.
Some schools are already starting to reopen in countries that have been able to manage the spread of the virus. Germany, France, and China are currently in this phase.
When specific criteria are met, our government plans to phase in reopening’s beginning 1 June for selected ages. Wales, Scotland, and other countries have not yet set a date for reopening’s to begin. California, New York, Portugal, and Italy have not established a timetable for schools to restart until September at the earliest.
Gibbs generally recommends that governments adopt plans for recovery spanning five years when she advises them. However, since the world is heading towards a potential recession due to the impact of the coronavirus, the time for recovery may be longer. However, in the end, she counsels hope because children are resilient and will go on to have happy and normal lives.