UNESCO highlights some harmful consequences of school closure

In the context of the State Alarm that several nations across the world already live, one of the most common measures within the various plans to contain the Coronavirus is the closure of all schools. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) urges reflection on the pejorative consequences of school closure, even temporary, for families and particularly for those under vulnerable situations.

The consequences highlighted by UNESCO constitute a call to reflect on a phenomenon of great importance. In this line, the study of school segregation is related to part of the study of school closure’ dimensions, such as the study of school dropout and failure and its relationship with unequal opportunities between more or less favored communities. The consequences highlighted by UNESCO are:

    • Interrupted learning: Schooling provides essential learning and when schools close, children and youth are deprived opportunities for growth and development. The disadvantages are disproportionate for under-privileged learners who tend to have fewer educational opportunities beyond school.
    • Nutrition: Many children and youth rely on free or discounted meals provided at schools for food and healthy nutrition. When schools close nutrition is comprised.
    • Parents unprepared for distance and home schooling: When schools close parents are often asked to facilitate the learning of children at home and can struggle to perform this task. This is especially true for parents with limited education and resources.
    • Unequal access to digital learning portals: Lack of access to technology or good internet connectivity is an obstacle to continued learning, especially for students from disadvantaged families.
    • Gaps in childcare: In the absence of alternative options, working parents often leave children alone when schools close and this can lead to risky behaviors, including increased influence of peer pressure and substance abuse.
    • High economic costs: Working parents are more likely to miss work when schools close in order to take care of their children, incurring wage loss in many instances and negatively impacting productivity.
    • Unintended strain on health-care system: Women often represent a large share of health-care workers and often cannot attend work because of childcare obligations that result from school closures. This means that many medical professionals are not at the facilities where they are most needed during a health crisis.
    • Increased pressure on schools and school systems that remain open: Localized school closures place burdens on schools as parents and officials redirect children to schools that are open.
    • Dropout rates tend to rise: It is a challenge to ensure children and youth return and stay in school when schools reopen after closures. This is especially true of protracted closures.
    • Social isolation: Schools are hubs of social activity and human interaction. When schools are closed, many children and youth miss out of on social contact that is essential to learning and development.