School Closures and Continued Literacy Regression - A Wake Up Call

With schools having been closed in Trinidad and Tobago for almost 2 full years, it seems that we have followed in the footsteps of America’s response, and the harm this has already done to thousands of children in regards to their literacy progression is a serious cause for concern.

With schools having been closed in Trinidad since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, A.R.R.O.W. has been committed to highlighting the importance of face to face learning, and the limitations of a purely virtual learning plan for children. A recent article published in The Economist this week commented that America has failed to learn from the safe opening of schools in countries across Europe, with children having missed significantly more time in school than in Ireland, Spain and France. It seems that Trinidad has followed in the footsteps of America’s response, and the harm this has already done to thousands of children in regards to their literacy progression is a serious cause for concern.



Another article from The Economist states, “The immense harm [school closures] have done to children’s prospects might be justified if closing classrooms were one of the best ways of preventing lethal infections.” As it has been acknowledged that Covid 19 rarely makes children ill (In America, the chance of children aged 5-14 becoming seriously ill from the virus is 1 in 500,000 - a tenth of a child’s chance of dying in a traffic accident in normal times), the biggest risk factor would be the potential of children passing the virus onto vulnerable adults, which is undoubtedly a reason to be cautious and concerned. However, in the case of Trinidad, restaurants, beaches, bars and other public spaces have been allowed to re-open, where the risk of the virus spreading among adults is much larger - while schools have been made to remain closed. This makes us question how seriously the continued literacy regression among children - particularly those most vulnerable - is being taken. It has been found that primary school in particular is vital to social mobility; is a child’s education and potential future not considered as important as the opening of recreational public spaces? Remaining safe throughout the pandemic is undoubtedly a priority, but the immense harm that the continued remote learning has the potential to result in should also raise major concern, and be responded to with much more urgency than is currently being considered.



In Trinidad, restaurants, beaches, bars and other public spaces have been allowed to re-open, where the risk of the virus spreading among adults is much larger - while schools have been made to remain closed. This makes us question how seriously the continued literacy regression among children - particularly those most vulnerable - is being taken.

As explained in one of our previous articles, the vast majority of children living in Trinidad will not have access to the perfect internet connection, a quiet space to work in, and academic support from an adult or professional, who is readily available to help. What's more, those with learning difficulties and disabilities are left totally unsupported. To assume that remote learning is a sufficient tool to keep children across Trinidad - with varying economic and social privileges - progressing in their education is completely unrealistic and naive, and in turning a blind eye to this fact, our children will continue to regress, and their future prospects will continue to decline.


A United Nations report states that the learning losses for children as a result of Covid 19 is “the largest disruption to education in history”. The global acknowledgement of this pandemic of student regression in itself, should serve as a serious wake up call to our own country, to put safe and realistic measures in place that can lessen the damage that has already occurred.


To read our article regarding returning to school in the wake of literacy regression, click here.



Sources:


The Economist. (2021). Closing the world’s schools caused children great harm. [online] Available at: https://www.economist.com/leaders/2021/06/24/closing-the-worlds-schools-caused-children-great-harm [Accessed 19 Jan. 2022].


The Economist. (2022). America has failed to learn from the safe opening of classrooms abroad. [online] Available at: https://www.economist.com/leaders/2022/01/13/america-has-failed-to-learn-from-the-safe-opening-of-classrooms-abroad [Accessed 19 Jan. 2022].

The Economist. (2020). Closing schools for covid-19 does lifelong harm and widens inequality. [online] Available at: https://www.economist.com/international/2020/04/30/closing-schools-for-covid-19-does-lifelong-harm-and-widens-inequality.





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