The Pontifical Academy for Life at the Vatican publishes a new document on the disastrous consequences of Covid-19 on education and calls for the reopening of schools for children.
By Francesca Merlo
On Wednesday, the Pontifical Academy for Life presented a new document, prepared in collaboration with the Dicastery for Integral Human Development and the Vatican Covid-19 Commission. The document is titled: “The Pandemic and the Education Challenge”.
The document begins by declaring that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the lives of children and adolescents requires focusing on what has been called a ‘parallel pandemic’. This means that, although it is not immediately evident, the psychosocial stress to which children are subjected, due to the pandemic, has resulted in distress and illnesses which have very different consequences depending on age and background. social and environmental conditions.
With this note, the Pontifical Academy for Life writes that, “in the exercise of its mission of protection and promotion of life, wants to benefit from the experience of these last months and be aware of the positive resources that have been developed during the pandemic, identify particularly fragile and problematic areas in order to face the immediate future with the hope that the younger generations deserve. “
Resources available for children and adolescents during Covid
The first point of the document is that children and young people show a mature capacity to be sensitized and involved in the understanding and interpretation of the pandemic and its effects. “Their sensitivity to questions and answers regarding pain, disease and treatment is increasing,” the paper reads.
“During these tragic months, the resilience that characterizes the younger generations has emerged. We have seen resistance building to seriously negative events through the strength of internal resources and external support structures. Young people know how to resist. In addition, re-enactment also provides an opportunity to develop children’s confidence in science.
Four serious and urgent challenges
The document goes on to note that “the continuing nature of the pandemic around the world requires us to face the near future with a specific and shared acceptance of the responsibility of the younger generations.”
In this regard, he continues, there are “four areas to which special attention must be paid.”
Reopen schools as completely as possible
The first point concerns the closure of schools. The document states that although the decision to close the schools was justified by the scientific community on the basis of a perceived need to avoid the spread of contagion, “one cannot fail to underline the seriousness of such a measure. , which in the future should be regarded as the last resort. “
He explains that confinement measures have forced children into the continued – and often unpredictable – practice of distance learning, impoverishment of academic development, loss of formative relationships, intellectual learning, and deprivation of formative relationships. have become well-known phenomena.
“In many countries, even today, the drastic lack of educational opportunities is met by the striking stubbornness of young students who walk for miles to reach school and itinerant teachers who teach small groups of students. pupils in their own villages, going there by the most diverse routes mean. “
Regarding the reopening of schools, the Document highlights five other points (which are negative) to consider:
1) In southern countries, the school dropout rate has increased due to school closures. At least 10 million children around the world today will not return to school. Many of them are victims of social conditions which force them to work and exploit children.
2) The risk of a significant loss of acquired skills and knowledge has increased. Closures limit access to education, accentuating inequalities due to “Numeric fraction”
3) The daily calorie intake of children living in areas where school meals are provided has been reduced, exacerbating situations of economic disadvantage. On the contrary, in more developed regions of the world, school closures affect lifestyles that are unhealthy due to reduced diet and physical activity.
4) The impact on the psycho-physical, psychological and social health of children and on the social interaction generated by the closure of schools has generated anxiety disorders, depression and stress. Additionally, the closure of fitness centers and social distancing measures have resulted in reduced physical activity, leading to frequent weight gain and negative effects on mental health.
5) The closure of schools has increased dependence on the Internet, video games and television (binge watching).
Safeguard family relationships
The next point on which the document relates is the safeguarding of family relationships. In this regard, it is stated that the pandemic challenges parents and families as educators.
Parents renew their presence in the lives of their children. “Being a parent is not just about sending your children to school and making sure that they actually go there. The closure of schools has put the vocation of being parents and grandparents back at the heart of the family”, he said.
The document goes on to add that the increase in parental stress after prolonged confinements has a direct impact on the psychological well-being of children. It is unthinkable to face the coming winter months without adequate support (social, cultural, urban, economic) for families, who will continue to be called upon to bear the many consequences of the pandemic.
Education for universal brotherhood
The third point raised is that of education for universal fraternity.
“The Covid-19 phenomenon represents a precious opportunity for educators. Communicating the origin, effects and consequences of the pandemic means rethinking educational tools in such a way as to help children discover and inhabit the world, not to feel foreign, to understand it, “reads the Document.
He then goes on to explain that “we must teach the younger generations not to shy away from the prospects of globalization, the achievements of science, the ecological challenge, the economic and social perspective with its inequalities, the role of social media and the technology”. , emphasizing that we can no longer, and should no longer, complain that our children are withdrawn and within narrow cultural boundaries, outside the world and its problems.
With the pandemic, the whole world has entered every home – that of the richest and oldest countries as well as those that are youngest but still developing. It is up to the world of educators to translate all this and to value it so that the new generations open their eyes and become more aware of the world and of their responsibility as citizens and believers, underlines the document.
Transmitting Faith to the God of Life
The fourth and final point concerns the importance of transmitting faith in the God of life.
“We cannot deny that even with many virtuous examples of creativity and renewed pastoral imagination, the pandemic has proven to be a serious source of stress. for too many ecclesial realities and has generated, quite frequently and for whatever reason, a suspension of the educational activities usually offered by Christian communities to children and young people ”, we read in the document, adding that“ our recent experiences require, in the immediate future, a conscientious and urgent overhaul of the pastoral care of the young generations. “
In addition, the pandemic, by keeping us at home, has re-proposed the home and the family as a “sapiential space” of assimilation and participation in the faith, where there are gestures and words that support, arouse and answer the deep questions our children raise.
To this end, it is urgent to work so that, within the Christian community, families emerge as “network nodes” on the paths of formation and accompaniment.
Concluding its document, the Pontifical Academy, with its collaborators, writes that by drawing lessons from the experience of the pandemic, the Catholic Church underlines the urgency of removing the serious obstacles which prevent, in the world, a life healthy and positive entry of children and adolescents into society and calls for the creation of all the conditions necessary for this to happen. Children must go to school, he emphasizes.
“This is the renewed call that comes from the pandemic. May the school be a healthy environment, where the knowledge and science of living together and relationships are learned. May the little ones have good teachers, aware of the talents of each student, capable of being patient and of listening. “
Finally, according to the document, “the pandemic has reminded everyone of the need to face the genuine and sincere questions of young people who are their response to a sudden and collective evil”.