January 27, 2021, 3:22 am
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School Closures Effect on Child Health

COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease that has been spread to most countries in the world. To limit the spread of the corona virus nationwide lockdown has been implemented in many countries. Schools are closed since March in Bangladesh as the educational institute can be the source of spreading the virus as it can be the most crowded place. The main prevention strategy of the corona virus is social distancing. So, all educational institutes are brought to close till unknown duration. There is also a lack of adequate classrooms which increases the chance of spreading COVID-19. So, a decision has been taken to remain school close until it will be safe from the COVID-19. Over 90% of enrolled learners which is about 1•5 billion young people worldwide are now out of education.

Many studies reveal the negative effect of quarantine and isolation on mental health. Different studies conducted around the world suggest that children and teenagers are less likely than adults to develop severe Covid-19 symptoms and die from the disease. In Bangladesh, too, the least hit by the novel corona virus are people under 20 years of age, according to an age-wise analysis of official data. Children are at extremely low risk. According to the age wise analysis only 0.46% of the deaths occurred for people under 10 and the death rate is 0.80% for children aged 11-20. But if the schools are to reopen, experts say that will be risky.

Almost all prohibitions and restrictions imposed by the government to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic have been lifted by now. Even the cinema halls are open now. Prolong school closure bored the life of students. Children and adolescents are affected more mentally. (Lee, 2020)Schools are an essential source of non-academic supports in the way of health and mental health services, food assistance, obesity prevention, and intervention in cases of homelessness and maltreatment. It is true that teaching young children about maintaining proper hygiene practice and social distance is difficult but not impossible. (Hoffman & Miller, 2020).

The impact of COVID-19 on mental health in children is massive in Bangladesh. 5-15 years old children are suffering more from mental disturbances during the pandemic. Many of them are suffering from depression, frustration, becoming drug addict. Schools play a vital role in developing children’s mental well-being. About 3.7 million students and a million teachers are staying at home in Bangladesh in this COVID-19 outbreak.(Yeasmin et al., 2020)The prolonged school closures not only hampering their mental health but also keep them away from developing healthy practices such as proper hand wash practices and also causing nutritional deficiency of those children who are financially not stable and they are dependent on the foods that are provided in the school.(Hoffman & Miller, 2020)Many children and youth rely on free or discounted meals provided at schools for food and healthy nutrition. So, children are suffering from nutritional deficiency.

When schools close, especially unexpectedly and for unknown durations, teachers are often unsure of their obligations and how to maintain connections with students to support learning. Online learning platforms tend to be messy and frustrating, even in the best circumstances. In many contexts, school closures lead to separations for teachers. 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 such as not having a smart phone and laptops or internet connection. Some students from much undeveloped rural area and they are not able to attend the online classes as they have limited resources.

In the absence of alternative options, working parents often leave children alone as schools are closed and this can lead to risky behaviors. As schools are closed, early marriages increase again, sexual exploitation of girls and young women rises, teenage pregnancies become more common, and child labour grows.(UNESCO n.d.) So, prolong school closure not only hampering the mental health of the students but also inviting much social violence. In this situation, it is urgent to take some innovative action to restore the wellbeing of the child. Government and the authority should take necessary steps immediately and think of some alternative way. Schools of rural area should be focused first and the rest should gradually follow. The loss can be managed to some extent if the current academic year of 2020 ends in March next year. For maintaining safety measures, masks can be distributed to students for free. But further delay in reopening educational institutions may lead to severe social disorder. We all should give serious thought to this issue.

Writer: Dr.Atia Sharmin Bonna, MBBS,MPH, Universal & Urban Health Officer, Eminence Associates for Social Development, email: atia@eminence-bd.org

Hoffman, J. A., & Miller, E. A. (2020). Addressing the Consequences of School Closure Due to COVID-19 on Children’s Physical and Mental Well-Being. World Medical and Health Policy, 12(3), 300–310. https://doi.org/10.1002/wmh3.365
Lee, J. (2020). Mental health effects of school closures during COVID-19. The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, 4(6), 421. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30109-7 Yeasmin, S., Banik, R., Hossain, S., Hossain, N., & Mahumud, R. (2020). Since January 2020 Elsevier has created a COVID-19 resource centre with free information in English and Mandarin on the novel coronavirus COVID- 19 . The COVID-19 resource centre is hosted on Elsevier Connect , the company ’ s public news and information website .

Elsevier hereby grants permission to make all its COVID-19-related research that is available on the COVID-19 resource centre – including this research content – immediately available in PubMed Central and other publicly funded repositories , such as the WHO COVID database with rights for unrestricted research re-use and analyses in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source . These permissions are granted for free by Elsevier for as long as the COVID-19 resource centre remains active . Children and Youth Services Review Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of children in Bangladesh : A cross-sectional study. January.
UNESCO (n.d.)Advance consequences of school closures, Retrieved: November 06, 2020, Available at: https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse/consequences


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