ROME — The Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) said Wednesday more attention needs to be paid to the deleterious effects of measures such as school closings and lockdowns imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
“The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the lives of children and adolescents requires a focus on what has been called a ‘parallel pandemic,’” the Academy states in its 3500-word text, noting that “the psychosocial stress that children are subjected to as a result of the pandemic has resulted in distress and illnesses.”
“This parallel pandemic, which affects generations just when they are developing the energies that will fuel their imaginations and deal with the future, will have a profound impact on the psychology of the youth, especially adolescents,” the document warns.
For good practices to return, “we must ‘come to terms’ with practices where we have not taken sufficient account of the common good and individual vulnerability,” it declares.
To counteract the devastating consequences of the “parallel pandemic,” the Pontifical Academy proposes re-opening schools as fully as possible.
The decision to close schools should be considered “as only the last resort, to be adopted in extreme cases and only after having tried other epidemic control measures, such as different arrangements of the classrooms, pupil transportation, scholastic life and classroom schedules,” the text asserts.
The practice of remote learning, in fact, has resulted in “the impoverishment of academic development, the loss of formative relationships intellectual learning and the deprivation of formative relationships,” the Academy states.
School closures have caused “growing frustration and disorientation among, in particular, adolescents,” it continues, noting that the situation “is aggravated by precedent poverty and social hardship.”
Daily school attendance “is not just an educational tool,” but rather “it is where ‘life’ — relationships, friendly ties and affective education — is learned. The closure of schools has severed many social relations or at lease severely disrupted them.”
Along with these consequences suffered by nearly all students, it is estimated that “at least 10 million children in the world today will not return to school,” the text states, and many of them will “become victims of social conditions that force them into child labor and exploitation.”
The closure of schools has also “increased addiction to the internet, video games or television” and the “dramatic restriction of outdoor play has had serious consequences.”
“Neuroscientific studies show that when limiting the experiences of play and exploration, an over-stimulation of the areas expressing sadness and fear prevails, with negative effects on the development of the child,” it adds.
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