Prof Servaas van der Berg and Dr Nic Spaull, two faculty members at Stellenbosch University’s Department of Economics recently completed their report;
“Counting the Cost: Covid-19 school closures in South Africa and its impact on children”, which found that the 1 million children left home alone have no other adult caregiver in the house, except for a working parent.
“Our analysis shows that if all employed workers return to work, there would be more than 2 million children aged 0-15 years without an older sibling (15 years+) or an adult caregiver to look after them.
“It is highly plausible that hundreds of thousands of these children would be left home alone in households without an adult caretaker if their employed caregiver was forced to return to work to earn an income and sustain her family.”
“Even though most sectors of the economy have reopened, ECD centres or crèches remain closed,” the researchers said.
Based on the government’s current plans, by the end of Term 2 on August 7, South African children will have lost between 25% and 57% of the “normal” school days scheduled up to that point.
“After reviewing the evidence presented in this paper, it is our view that keeping children out of school is not in the best interests of the child.”
“Consequently, all children should return to schools, crèches and ECD centres without any further delay. The profound costs borne by small children and families as a result of the ongoing nationwide lockdown and school closures will be felt for at least the next 10 years,” the researchers said
They said children were at risk of lasting psychological distress.
“School closures, lockdowns and increased financial stress are likely to have increased the risk of child abuse, mental health breakdowns and the emotional exhaustion of caregivers together with rising rates of depression and anxiety.”
“Recent surveys of children in Nicaragua, Indonesia and a number of other countries have shown that children are at higher risk of lasting psychological distress.”
They also added, “Children’s routine immunisations, testing for HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and health seeking behaviour when children seem sick, are all likely to have decreased as a result of the lockdown and school closures.”
“The National Institute for Communicable Diseases reports a 48% reduction in TB testing.”
“Any delays in the diagnosis and treatment of HIV in either pregnant mothers or new-born children is likely to have long-term consequences.”
Photo Credit: Unsplash