In Their Own Words

We need support to get back on track

“School represents more than just academics for children and youth. For many, school and its in-person interactions and activities form the cornerstone of their lives.” -– Dr. Daphne Korczak, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at SickKids.

Our lives have undoubtedly been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Many things have changed as a result of this historic period, including how we interact with one another and conduct our daily lives.

Students are no exception. The numerous unforeseen changes brought on by the pandemic have been something we have had to bear and adapt to. The requirement for school administrators and caregivers to weigh the health risks of in-person learning against the demands of children in terms of education have resulted in a variety of learning environments. There have been many continuing changes to our learning environments and activities.

Since March 2020, numerous initiatives and plans have been implemented to combat COVID-19 and lessen the learning discontinuity for children. The educational environments have been impacted by a number of factors, including school outbreaks, board decisions and parental decisions. Generally speaking, they have included school closures with suspended face-to-face instruction, online virtual learning, and face-to-face learning with safety precautions in place (e.g., smaller class sizes, physical distancing, mandatory masks). Despite the fact that the measures were intended to maximize children’s health and safety while minimizing any negative consequences on their learning, it is clear that they had an impact on the learning environments.

Children’s learning environments were certainly impacted by the measures. For instance, studies have revealed that some kids’ access to the internet was unstable, their homes weren’t conducive to learning, or they had little adult assistance, which hampered their chances to learn in virtual environments. It is probable that some children may not be performing at the appropriate grade level given that preliminary data indicates certain kids would face a learning lag from the pandemic.

As the children are now back in a typical learning setting, it is crucial to concentrate on the rate of growth rather than on any potential losses or how they are doing in relation to their classmates. Whether a kid is making the expected progress given the level of support being offered or not, teachers should let parents know if their child has encountered a learning lag. Children may benefit from additional assessment and learning assistance if they are not improving at a pace that is appropriate for their grade level.

The youth’s mental health has suffered significantly as a result of COVID-19, in addition to the educational losses. Children were affected greatly because the epidemic hit during critical stages of their physical, social and emotional development, and because some of them lost loved ones. Public health initiatives to stop the disease’s spread also disrupted or changed how people used services and caused problems with children’s mental health.

According to recent research from The Hospital for Sick Children, the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic significantly harmed the mental health of most children and adolescents. Increased social isolation stress, which includes missing out on crucial events and losing face-to-face social interactions, was substantially linked to a decline in mental health. In keeping with their earlier findings that most children and youth reported poor mental health during the initial COVID-19 lockdowns, the research team discovered that mental health did not improve after the school year resumed. During the second wave, more than half of the 758 kids aged 8 to 12 and 70 per cent of the 520 adolescents reported having clinically significant depressive symptoms (February to March 2021).

In conclusion, it is clear that COVID-19 has certainly had negative impacts on youth, specifically on our education and mental health. It is crucial for our government to put into place many measures for students to get back on track with our learning and provide support for our mental health and wellbeing.

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