Children without books
Benches with wheels, round benches, single or double square benches, with plexiglass or without. Online or face-to-face lessons, simple or super-protective masks.
Susan, who lives in Maasailand 3 hours by track from Nairobi, does not know about all this. They closed her school in March. Since then it has its stone under a large yellow acacia in the middle of the savannah 5 kilometers from the village. It is an area where there is no shortage of grass and shrubs, excellent for grazing goats. The big stone where she sits is flat and comfortable, in the shade, a double stone, so there is also her younger sister who helps her to watch the goats. In the last two days before closing she tried to copy into her notebook as many parts as possible of the teacher's English book, the only book for the whole class. There were 90 children in the classroom. 20 three-seater wooden benches. 20 times 3 is 60: 60 students seated at the desk, the other 30 on the floor. On the red clay of Maasailand, because in most of the classrooms there is no floor. Without a bench because they are orphans. In the poorest schools in the suburbs and villages, it is the parents who have to buy the desks, usually three-seater, and share the costs. Those who have no parents are left without a desk. Susan now knows all the pages of the notebook by heart. She has also read and reread all the short stories she had managed to copy and takes the opportunity to teach English words to her sister. Missing the meal that was provided by the school, but Susan considers herself luckier than her other classmates. He can milk and drink goat milk, and usually has home-made beans and rice as well. Together with his sister, he gathers the animals an hour before sunset to get to the village in time before dark.
Various sources from international organizations report that students can lose up to 50% of their reading and math skills acquired in the previous academic year during the summer periods alone. In these months of pandemic and lockdown only accentuated the extreme disparity between students from high-income families, who have access to extremely expensive private schools that guarantee a good online program, and students from poor families who attended public schools without any alternative teaching system. To suffer and to pay even more for the future consequences are the weakest students with disabilities: deaf, visually impaired, with mental problems and learning deficits. The closure of schools affected not only academic knowledge, but also the development of social and relational skills. As well as on the physical and sports activities organized after school, which have always also had the function of keeping the children off the road.
It was difficult to continue our nutritional program due to the high costs due to the enormous increase in the needs of families with many children home from school. Our school medicine and health education services, essential for the health of students and their families, have been lacking for months. Medicine on the territory with its prevention, public health and environmental services has unfortunately often been put aside in recent decades also in Italy, especially in the regions where private medicine has taken over in its aspects of expensive and sophisticated treatments. . In these areas, the pandemic has hit the hardest. An honest analysis and a serious rethinking of health policies would be needed before undertaking any future investment in health, and rediscovering the value of school as a community, as a center for spreading health and social education, of a scientific culture, as a place for books and knowledge. Would all this be enough to stem the drift of social networks and new superstitions? I don't know, but it would surely help the new generations to regain possession of true knowledge on the side of humanity.