Nurturing schools can help to offset the pandemic’s impact on small children
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Dr Bev Evangelides
An observational study has found that children born during the pandemic have significantly reduced verbal, motor and overall cognitive performance compared with children born before the pandemic.
The study’s lead author, Professor Sean Deoni, Associate Professor of Paediatrics at Brown, notes that with less stimulation at home and reduced interaction and engagement with the outside world, young children scored surprisingly low on the cognitive development tests. There were 672 children from Rhode Island state, a relatively affluent area, who were selected for the study.
It’s known that the first few years of a child’s life are crucial for cognitive development, but with the disruptive impact of Covid-19 confining people to homes and closing businesses, day-care facilities, schools and parks, life experience for under-3s has been severely curtailed, while care-givers tried to balance work and child care, often within a stressful home-work environment.
Research conducted closer to home in South Africa, headed by Professor Mark Tomlinson, from the Institute of Life Course Health Research in the Department of Global Health at the University of Stellenbosch, found that children have been hardest hit by the pandemic.
The researchers point out that during the lockdown, children were especially vulnerable to Covid-related fear, anxiety, depression, altered family and social relationships and even post-traumatic stress. A Parent24 article on the research adds that the findings highlight that children depend on parents for health care, food, protection from harm, opportunities to learn, and love and affection, which comprise nurturing care.
“The ability of families to provide nurturing care depends on ‘facilitating environments’ made up of many factors – the availability of work, adequate housing, health care, social security and supportive laws. As children develop, sources of nurturing care extend to include the wider family network, child care workers, teachers, community members and, importantly, friends and peers.
“Children develop resilience through contact with supportive adults beyond the household, such as mentors, extended family and their teachers. However, lockdowns, isolation, the closure of schools and separation from friends interrupt the usual balance of adverse and protective experiences that enable children to cope,” states the article.
The need for schools and child care facilities to provide fully nurturing and supportive environments where small children can thrive and develop in a holistic way is clearly crucial for their future – and for the healthy future of society as a whole.
*Dr Bev Evangelides is the Head of the Early Learning School at Reddam House, Waterfall.
**The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of IOL Education