Mon | Jul 26, 2021

Children psychologically affected by school closure, says educator

Published:Sunday | May 17, 2020 | 8:36 AMVanessa James/Gleaner Writer
Nicolette McDonnough-Foster congratulates two students who were named as most improved at Alpha Infant School pinning ceremony in this 2013 file photo.
Nicolette McDonnough-Foster congratulates two students who were named as most improved at Alpha Infant School pinning ceremony in this 2013 file photo.
From left: Sabrina Raymond, Benjamin Brown, Althea Moulton and Principal Nicolette McDonnough-Foster with students of Alpha Infant in this 2018 file photo. McDonnough-Foster is raising concerns about children being affected psychologically as they are unable to attend school owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From left: Sabrina Raymond, Benjamin Brown, Althea Moulton and Principal Nicolette McDonnough-Foster with students of Alpha Infant in this 2018 file photo. McDonnough-Foster is raising concerns about children being affected psychologically as they are unable to attend school owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Online teaching is not a common phenomenon, and for children to be confined to their homes and not being able to be at school, it is going to have a negative affect on them, according to Nicolette McDonnough-Foster, principal of Alpha Infant School.

The affects are going to be felt more, McDonnough-Foster said, on children who are in the early-childhood stage of development.

“The pandemic [and not having contact learning] will affect the children and it will take the patience of our very dedicated ministry and other stakeholders to understand the characteristics of these children,” she said. “You know, we have so much antisocial behaviours in the society already, where the males are killing their partners, and it starts at the early-childhood level.”

In a digital press conference held at the Office of the Prime Minister on Monday, May 4, 2020, Karl Samuda, minister with oversight for education, youth and information, announced that schools will continue to use online platforms to administer lessons to students until July 3, 2020.

This would mean that children would have be schooled at home for an extended period. This would be a worldwide phenomenon. As the world continues to grapple with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, many countries have had to make drastic changes in attempts to keep their residents safe.

Social interactions

McDonnough-Foster added that it is through social interactions in which infants learn and play that they avoid developing antisocial mechanisms, therefore, using this social distance learning method could be damaging for the 4- and 5-year-olds.

“We were a part of the Tablets in Schools programme so we have tested and proven that device and we found that the more they cling to the tablet was the more they lost the connectivity with human interaction and emotion,” she told The Gleaner. “You want to stimulate the psychological aspect of the brain within the early-childhood level, so we must inculcate within them empathy, which we call the necessary curriculum.”

After realising these changes and the negative effects they could have on her students, McDonnough-Foster came up with a plan to help the children develop emotionally, and hopefully undo the psychological damage that the trauma of being displaced can cause.

“When we (at Alpha Infant) go back – because we have already started planning – with class one who will be going to class 2, we are planning to stop teaching and learning and we are going back to the social graces, how to empathise and so on,” said the educator. “The psychological aspect of our students’ lives is our main focus when school reopens, and everything else will fall in line,” she said.

According to the Minister Samuda, schools should reopen on September 7, 2020.

vanessa.james@gleanerjm.com