Back to school in an economic and social crisis

Returning to school this 2022-2023 school year is taking place in a scenario of concern and uncertainty for families. But it is also for the children and adolescents themselves, who, let’s not forget, are directly or indirectly affected by any crisis. In the next article, we will see how the economic and social crisis we are experiencing affects children and what can be done to ensure their overall well-being.

The third economic crisis for many children and adolescents

The inflation The current situation primarily affects households in a situation of poverty, given the increase in the price of basic products. There are no cheaper substitutes to go for, because those are the ones that go up the most. A sharp increase in paper product prices of 23%, along with food inflation, affects the cost of books, school supplies or food services.

And in this situation, UNICEF protects guarantees free items and services related to compulsory education — such as textbooks, a cafeteria or school transport —, especially for low-income households. In this way, families will not go into debt and this expense will not be an obstacle to exercising the right to education. Also, it is necessary to maintain the increase in funds for scholarships and tuition assistanceby expanding its scope and criteria for equity participation in its concession.

Because education is not only for learning, but also for managing, protecting and mitigating risks for children and their environment. The education system offers essential support to protect children and adolescents by creating learning opportunities, offering school meals or, where necessary, ensuring that the most vulnerable families have access to more specialized services.

This new economic crisis is the third from which many children and adolescents are already suffering, and as the agents of change that they are, we must protect their rights and futures. Schools today are the most effective space for ensuring their overall well-being.

Emotional well-being and mental health of students

In addition, another year we find other challenges such as the emotional well-being and mental health of students. Children and adolescents they need to learn in a safe, secure and inclusive environment. Particularly vulnerable groups should be taken into account, such as victims of violence, families at risk of poverty or migrant and refugee children.

With a very important role in the prevention and detection of violence in the school environment, this year we will find the figure of welfare and protection co-ordinator in all educational centers as established by the Organic Law for the Comprehensive Protection of Children and Adolescents Against Violence (LOPIVI). And with a view to its implementation, UNICEF made a number of recommendations in order to make significant progress in guaranteeing the right to protection of children in and from education.

Image: © UNICEF/UN0691421/Hrom

Back to school for Ukrainian boys and girls

Similarly, another prominent challenge is the education of refugee children, due to obstacles such as language barrier or lack of appropriate materials. With the arrival of Ukrainian boys and girls due to the war in that country, UNICEF Spain warns that the socio-economic situation of Ukrainian families who have already been to our country and have accepted compatriots is increasingly vulnerable, something that will also affect the schooling of boys and girls. For this reason, although the response to schooling has been quick and positive, additional resources are still needed to facilitate and guarantee the social protection of these families.

If we look at Ukraine, the war marred the start of the new school year for the four million school-aged boys and girls. They try to return to their schools, many of them damaged during the war, with a history of destruction, not knowing if their teachers and friends will be there to welcome them. Many parents hesitate to send their sons and daughters to school, not knowing if they will be safe.

UNICEF is working with the government to help children in Ukraine resume their education, either in classrooms when they are considered safe spaces, or through online alternatives, or in the communities themselves when face-to-face learning is not possible.

Must be mindful of the World Initiative for Safe Schools (WISS) and adhere to the Safe Schools Declarationwhich is an intergovernmental political commitment to protect students, teachers, schools and universities in situations of armed conflict and promotes the safety of schools around the world.

Because educational institutions should be a safe space where children and adolescents can be protected from threats and crises, and a haven where they can learn, play and develop to their full potential.

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