Schools should reopen 100% to support children's mental health, pediatric task force warns

Schools should reopen 100% to support children's mental health, pediatric task force warns
Credit: Belga

Reopening schools 100% should remain a priority to safeguard the mental health of children in the long run, the Belgian Pediatric Covid-19 Task Force has argued.

The Consultative Committee decided last Wednesday that schools will only reopen in part, following the same rules as before the Easter pause, however, the task force has demanded the full opening of schools.

“Schools participated in a collective societal effort by closing their doors for a week before the Easter holidays. The aim was to help the epidemiological situation return to a more favourable level so that schools could reopen at 100%, but society as a whole did not play along. We can speak of a societal failure,” the group of medical experts in the field said in Le Soir on Monday.

Starting from Monday, pupils in the second and third grades of secondary education (aged 15-18) will only be able to physically attend school half-time, with half-time distance learning still in place.

The Task Force recognised that the figures are not evolving favourably, but argued that education must remain an absolute priority, as they play a crucial role “ not only in the academic training of students but also in supporting their bio-psycho-social health.”

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“Our health services are overwhelmed by worrying health problems among young people: suicide attempts and self-mutilation, mental anorexia, depression, major anxiety, intra-family violence, obesity, and many others,” the group warned.

The experts added that the balance between the benefits and risks of going to school requires that schools reopen 100% for all young people as soon as possible and that their “essential function as a support for young people's resilience is strengthened.”

It added that the coronavirus fighting measures being implemented in schools to not “completely overwhelm” the hospitals are still necessary, and highlighted that additional measures have been taken in schools in terms of testing and tracing with the advent of self-testing soon to reinforce this strategy.

Lauren Walker

The Brussels Times

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