Home-Schooling Was Hard, No Schooling is Worse
The pandemic dramatically changed the nature of learning around the world. With schools quickly shifting to online learning, parents across the globe were cast into the role of teachers and had to navigate an ever-increasing number of online learning platforms with varying degrees of success. Most of us either directly experienced the challenges of home-schooling or were subjected to a torrent of complaints from friends who are parents.
Online Schooling and Mental Health
Whilst thrusting parents into online teaching was anecdotally amusing, parents across the board felt a loss for their children. Pre-school aged children missed out on pivotal learning and development stages, and teens were isolated from their peers at a time when friendships are their lifeline. Moreover, there was an erosion of the joy of learning and access to the arts, sport and extracurriculars.
Studies in the U.S. reported a 28% increase in the number of children feeling lonely, a 12% increase in those feeling stressed and a 10% rise in those exhibiting symptoms of depression. We also witnessed a 30% decline in positive social and peer relationships in children. Peru is no exception: a UNICEF study confirmed that 3 in 10 Peruvian children and young adults are now at risk of mental health problems.
Children Without Internet Access
Whilst increased rates of child depression, stress and anxiety are very concerning, there is a fate perhaps even worse than this. In the rapid shift to online learning, millions of children without access to the internet and laptops were left behind and remain overlooked today.
In Peru, this is the case for the vast majority of children in rural, mountain communities who are unable to access the government's online learning platform. According to the Institute of Statistics and Informatics, only 5.6% of Peru's rural population has internet access, leaving 300,000 students without education. While most of the world's schools have re-opened, Peru's remain shut, and the futures of rural children in Peru hang in the balance.
It is impossible to overstate the impact of such an extended period without education. Missing school is associated with severe reductions in foundational skills, which are essential to a child's future economic opportunities and are the most difficult skills to recover. The 2014 Ebola outbreak highlighted a host of other negative impacts associated with school closures, including increased risk of violence and abuse against children, orphanhood, teenage pregnancy, child labour and malnutrition.
Bringing Education to Those Left Behind
Schools remain shut indefinitely in Peru, so the Picaflor House Mobile Library aims to stem the negative impact on the children, acting as a lifeline to education. The Mobile Library currently visits five villages a week and provides two hours of education to all the children who attend. We are thrilled to see so many children in attendance.
Two hours of classes per week may appear modest, but it is crucial to help prevent one of the most detrimental long-term effects of school closures: school dropout. Every day that children go without education increases the chance they will never return to school. Data from recent school closures in low-income countries shows that around 25% of children have permanently dropped out of formal education when schools re-open. Studies have also confirmed that 1 in 4 parents in Peru believe their children will not return to school. This is why the work of the Mobile Library is critical. Even one session a week helps stimulate the children intellectually, keep them engaged in learning and prevent them from being left even further behind. This engagement in education helps to ensure children will re-enter the education system when schools re-open.
In a couple of months, the children of Peru will hit a sombre milestone: two years without school. Whilst there appears no end in sight to the school closures, Globalteer's Mobile Library and its band of dedicated teachers and volunteers remain committed and honoured to provide education to the children of Kallarayan, Quillahuata, Picol, Yuncaypata and Matinga. The children's enthusiasm and gratitude for the Library serve as a constant reminder that every child deserves to know and benefit from the joy of learning.