Schools Reopen, Experts Speak Out Over Covid Impact on Kids

Thai schools are set to reopen for the first time in over two years today, as Covid-19 cases drop drastically and the country moves to an endemic stage.

The Education Ministry has decided to authorize schools’ reopening to allow children to return in line with the government’s plans to lift restrictions and help people learn to live with Covid-19.

However, experts say school officials must address students’ emotional and family needs as they face a major shift from two years of home learning to face-to-face classes.

Equitable Education Fund (EEF)’s expert and former Chulalongkorn University Sompong Jitradup said the upcoming semester’s first month should be devoted to helping children heal and “blow away their pain” caused by two tough years.

EEF expert Sompong also asked the government to consider children’s academic and personal development, understanding Covid-19 as both a health and economic issue. Many children have felt stressed seeing their families struggle to deal with daily life’s burdens amid the pandemic and have dropped out of school to earn money for their families.

In 2021, 238,707 students dropped out of school. Also, 1.9 million of Thailand’s 7.2 million school-age children are at risk of drifting away from school.

“To reduce this risk, we need to provide scholarships, food, advice, and cash,” Sompong added.

“Academic stuff can start later,” he stated, explaining that the school term’s first month should focus on games, home visits, field trips and talks to create a happy atmosphere and encourage children to regain their spirits.

Other educationalists say prolonged social distancing has affected students as well. Many children have developed emotional or mental issues from a lack of interaction with others, which can lead to addiction problems with technology or video games, said the Mental Health Department’s director-general Amporn Benjaponpithak.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Suriyadeo Tripathi, an expert in children and family development, also spoke out about how prolonged stress is harmful to children and recommended schools make their burden easy by avoiding overwhelming homework, competitive grading, and rote learning.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Trinuch Thienthong said the ministry has teamed up with the Public Health Ministry to prepare schools to return to on-site learning under the “Reduce Risks, Boost Immunity” Covid-19 safety protocol.

Mr. Trinuch stated that school authorities planned to use active learning to boost children’s knowledge and skills while promoting their life and social skills.