Education and justice are vitally intertwined with poverty and the Coronavirus this year. In past years, inequality in K-12 schools would be noticed in teacher salary disparities, and such things as crumbling classrooms and shortages of supplies. This is not (only) that kind of year. We who are not school employees, as well as parents, students and school staff wonder where we are going now that students are being educated again.
In terms of health, when in-person classes resume, children, families, school teachers and staff who will feel the effects most are located in schools in low income communities. Dr. Natasha Bhuyan of the University of Arizona states that low income schools don’t have the resources to implement safety protocols needed to keep children in K-12 schools safe, and entire communities will be impacted as children bring the coronavirus home to their parents. As of this writing on August 20, Arizona has the most children’s cases per thousand in the nation.
Children may or may not be passing the virus on to others, however the American Academy of Pediatrics says that they have at least as much of the virus in their noses as adults, and children under the age of five may host up to 100 time more virus than adults. These findings should at least be part of the debate.
Adding significantly to the problem of opening schools safely, living conditions play a part in how families and their children remain healthy. Poverty situations contain inter-related, structural inequities, including living in tight quarters, greater exposure to air and water pollution, working in hourly wage jobs without paid sick leave, inadequate protection from infection or the option to work from home, to name a few. People from all walks of life have begun to recognize these inequities, and are stepping up to work for change.
Children and adults are facing adversity and uncertainty. Children worry more when parents are worried.*
Opportunities for Action:
*Parents must help their children cope. Dr. Gene Barrison, at the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital has found that school-age children told him of three concerns: Am I safe? Are you who care for me safe? How will this affect my life?
Anxiety is contagious. Parents should ask their children what their concerns are. Remind them, says Dr. Barrison, of other hard times you have gotten through. Shield younger children from grim details, but realize that teenagers are much more capable of understanding the situation. If you aren’t honest with them, they’ll find out anyway. Be candid, and tell them you’re anxious too. Tell them you’re going to get through this virus together. Remind them often that God is walking with your family, and will always be a constant presence, strength and comfort in their lives.
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