By B. Zarzur
The shutdown of schools has deeply affected the educational system as a whole. With schools closed for most since mid-March, social and economic costs have risen. Besides the additional stress the pandemic has brought, students have the academic weight on their shoulders to carry. When looking at underdeveloped, the repercussions are even worse. Since the closure of schools, underprivileged children from struggling socioeconomic backgrounds have found themselves at the brink of collapse, and drowning in seas of destruction.
Many students from underdeveloped countries relied on schools for their meals, as families were financially unable. Children now suffer from lack of nutrition, as, economically, most families’ situation has only worsened.
Besides that, the academic development of children (especially aged 5-10) has been severely delayed. Differently from when children used to go to school, younger children from struggling socioeconomic backgrounds cannot focus and don’t have the necessary resources for online learning. An online learning environment makes it intimidating for struggling children, as it is harder to interact and solve doubts- especially when most cannot access lessons, and parents are usually working full time. In the long term, educational delays will negatively affect society as a whole.
As a result of academic delay and lack of resources, dropout rates have skyrocketed; which, in underdeveloped countries has led to an increase in child labor; as financial pressure is placed on children, which leads them to fall into the trap of labor so that they can generate some sort of income for their struggling families.
Furthermore, as families with no resources continue to struggle, the rate of exposure to violence and exploitation in abusive homes has become more apparent. In regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, where most families implement patriarchal traditions and norms, the rate of child marriage and sexual exploitation has increased due to the lack of education (which was already critically low) for girls. This leads to yet another generation of girls with severely lower levels of education in African countries, such as Niger, where girls are taken out of schools to get married (around 30% of girls in Niger are already married prior to age 15). With the pandemic, the rates have worsened, as school is no longer an option for most.
Consequentially, the shutdown of schools in underdeveloped countries such as Niger, has taken a vast toll on students; where they need to work to have enough resources for a socially distanced school system, but cannot escape child exploitation, and exposure to abusive and violent environments, and trapped them into an inescapable and merciless cycle.