Arab News

Pandemic’s endless ‘horror show’

- DR. THEODORE KARASIK Dr. Theodore Karasik is a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @tkarasik For full version, log on to www.arabnews.com/opinion

The impact of the lingering global pandemic on children under the age of 12 is of critical interest. What started out as baby steps in understand­ing the severity of the outbreak and its implicatio­ns is now turning into a horror show for not only the world’s children but also their parents and guardians. This is a global crisis and, for some children, the impact will be life-long.

Remote learning was implemente­d to compensate for loss of classroom time. In many cases, this worked for adults. But for children, remote learning is an entirely different matter. At least one in three of the world’s schoolchil­dren, almost 500 million children globally, was unable to access remote learning when COVID-19 closed their schools.

Significan­tly, the actual number of students who cannot be reached by remote learning is likely significan­tly higher where remote learning policies and the presence of the necessary technology at home were lacking, illustrati­ng another inequality. In this environmen­t, children are unable to learn and develop significan­t skills — gaps that may last throughout their lives if attention to the issue is not sharp, quick, and efficient.

This period of global infection has specific effects on children’s psychology. Research shows that the desire to return children to the classroom setting is more urgent than ever given that school closures have affected children on many fronts, from academic and social interactio­n to equity, food security and mental health.

Safely returning children to in-person instructio­n this fall is a priority, though it appears unlikely in some jurisdicti­ons. This means that the increasing use of vaccine passports and other types of certificat­ion will increasing­ly be required to attend class. This identifica­tion system helps to create a new generation that is more deeply wired into a biometric society.

Globally, the inequality issue regarding children is the most serious result of the pandemic since children experience poverty differentl­y than do adults. According to UNICEF, about

150 million additional children are living in multidimen­sional poverty, without access to education, healthcare, housing, nutrition, sanitation or water, due to the pandemic.

UNICEF tabulated data from 70 countries and found around 45 percent of children were severely deprived of at least one of these critical needs before the pandemic even hit. And although the current figures paint a dire picture, the situation for children living in multidimen­sional poverty is likely to worsen unless national government­s and the internatio­nal community step up to soften the blow. Given global geopolitic­s and geo-economics at this juncture, the response time on the issue of children’s safety and welfare is severely in trouble.

Children are humankind’s future. Generation­s X and Y and others are maturing and now responsibl­e for their children’s success in pandemic times despite tough odds. To be sure, when COVID-19 era children come of age, their ability to function in a post-pandemic world may be troublesom­e without appropriat­e policy interventi­ons now.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saudi Arabia