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Editorial: Efforts urged to find ways to regulate children’s lives while schools closed

  • March 19, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 11:57 a.m.
  • JMH Translation

Many people must have realized once again that school is an important place for children.


Nearly three weeks have passed since the government called on schools across the country to close as a measure against the new coronavirus. Students have basically stayed at home as 99% of elementary, junior high and high schools as well as special-needs schools have closed.


Not a few children have had the rhythm of their lives disturbed as they became stressed after being unable to see their friends and lead a regular life like that provided by school. As they spend a considerable amount of time indoors, they are likely to be lacking exercise. It comes as no surprise that such a situation has caused concern among guardians.


Some schools have opened their playgrounds where children can exercise by setting the days for each grade. Other schools have allowed students to come to school by separating them by grade or class, giving them an opportunity to interact with their friends.


Efforts to maintain the physical and mental health of children are essential.


The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is considering presenting to local governments conditions for reopening schools based on expert opinions. The conditions are envisaged to include taking thorough measures to prevent infection and there being no infected people in neighboring municipal areas.


The Toyama City government, which has already reopened schools at its own discretion, has thoroughly disinfected desks and chairs and taken steps to minimize the number of school events such as general assemblies. To reopen schools, it is necessary to take meticulous care not to make them places for mass infection.


It is also important to provide learning support for students during the closures.


Students are being given one-week assignments for school days, and teachers are handing over assignments for the next week during home visits. Tests will be conducted to assess the results of students’ learning after the closures end. Those concerned are urged to rack their brains to find such ways to encourage children to continue learning.


Support for learning at home using information and communication technology has also been provided. At elementary schools in Chiba Prefecture, assignments are posted on a special website, and students access them from terminals at home. Some education-related companies offer free educational materials online.


However, the use of the internet requires caution. It is concerning that if children are allowed to use the internet on their own, they might become addicted to video-sharing sites and games. Guardians are urged to keep an eye on children to prevent them from neglecting their studies.


In many double-income households and single-parent families, guardians often cannot take time off from work, forcing them to leave children at childcare facilities such as after-school clubs for children.


After schools closed all at once, it has become conspicuous that such after-school childcare facilities are having difficulty securing caregivers as they now accept children from the morning.


Improving the system to support children is an urgent task.

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