Schools and daycare centers: “For the third time in a chaos situation”


As of: 01/23/2022 3:09 p.m

The Omikron wave is also sweeping through schools and day-care centers. Parents have little opportunity to protect their child from infection. The psychological stress is enormous, says educator Baumann. Politicians have failed to make schools safe. In schools and daycare centers, the number of infections is increasing rapidly. How stressful is the current situation for parents and children?

Menno Baumann: Parents and children are under extremely high pressure right now. On the one hand, there is the fear that schools and daycare centers could close again, or that one would end up in an endless loop of quarantines. On the other hand, there is also the associated chaos on site. School is only stabilizing if it reliably contributes to rhythm, educational content and social contacts being made possible. This constant back and forth depresses: For example, the fear of having to go home immediately if I test positive – immediately life is completely different for the next few days.

And the parents have to organize that: 8.30 a.m. at work, then the call can come that the child is positive and you have to drop everything at work. The situation of unprotected schools, where the virus is running through and at the same time no clear line of what you can do to protect yourself – both the family structure and from the virus – this is extremely stressful.

Menno Bauman

Menno Baumann teaches intensive pedagogy at the Fliedner University of Applied Sciences in Düsseldorf. He is also the head of department and specialist advisor at the Leinerstift, a Protestant institution for children, youth and families. Baumann is a co-initiator of an interdisciplinary protection concept of educators, physicians and child and youth psychologists and psychotherapists to think more closely together of measures to protect against infection and protect children. What makes the quarantine even more stressful than the school and daycare closures during the lockdown?

Baumann: During quarantine I was in direct contact with the virus. This is completely different from staying at home because somewhere else numbers are skyrocketing. And lockdown measures always came with advance notice – you have a settling in phase. Quarantine hits you directly from one day to the next. And the degree of isolation in quarantine conditions is much higher. It then depends heavily on my own social infrastructure whether I can handle the quarantine or not. Could politics have changed the situation?

Baumann: We are now in a chaos situation for the third time. The political failure to do this already happened in the summer, when we could have built the infrastructure that we would have needed now. We have repeatedly urged that everything that is possible to protect against infection should be set up in schools. That was not done. There was the minimum consensus of testing and wearing a mask – but many other measures were not prepared that would have been much lower threshold and would have offered good protection. What was the lack of preparation?

Baumann: For example, cohort concepts, how to quickly divide into small groups in order to reduce the risk of infection purely mathematically. There’s a huge difference between being connected to basically all the thousands of students in the school through different teachers, and being in my small, fixed group. Or school route concepts: what use is the best school concept when everyone comes together with hundreds of other people in the morning on public transport. We have not worked on such things. No reliable structures for online teaching were set up because people didn’t want to go back to that. You can’t want that, but reality is showing something else right now.

“High infection dynamics alone create stress” What can you do now?

Baumann: The problem is that we always pretend that we have the choice between protection against infection or psychological stress. The fact is, however, that high infection dynamics like the one we are experiencing right now is also psychological stress – we also see this in studies in an international comparison. We have to think of both together: Protection against infection and against excessive psychological stress – i.e. the development of school social work and safe contact options: Where children can still meet safely when such a phase with high incidences is pending. Can you also understand the politics that keep schools and day care centers open, because you know that the closing times have also caused psychological damage for some children and young people?

Baumann: There is no doubt that schools should remain open. Although it has to be said that children are not only burdened by the subject of school, but by the pandemic itself. When I look at how many children in the USA have lost a parent to Corona, we in this country got off lightly.

It’s not about the decision: Open or close schools. It’s about making schools safe. We have to equip them in such a way that the children can go to school with a good feeling. In this chaos situation, how can parents do to protect children?

Baumann: For parents, the factor of family stability is very important to maintain. In the lockdown, the children had great problems, among other things, when the daily structure had broken down. Rituals, fixed processes and meals together are important. And from trauma pedagogy we know: ‘A lot of joy carries a lot of stress’. It helps to do nice things with the children, to play together – but also to talk a lot and explain things honestly. And be open with the children about what annoys them – and the parents too. The parents can carry their children through a bit.

It is also very important – and that would be a last political demand: to cushion the hardships of families who are affected by the pandemic. Poverty and existential fears on the part of parents put a tremendous strain on children. As a state, we have to help these families get through this time.

“We shouldn’t risk mass infections” Not all pediatricians consider Omikron to be harmless. What can parents do to protect children from infection in this situation with regular operation at schools and daycare centers?

Baumann: This is difficult when children with compulsory attendance are sent to insecure schools. In the private sphere one should not isolate oneself, but keep contacts in a small, reliable network manageable. Otherwise you get into a chain reaction.

And given the danger of the virus, it cannot be ruled out that surprises await us – without us knowing right now whether it can become a huge problem for children. In England, studies show that the virus can also change the brains of children, albeit without symptoms so far. Since we still know too little about this, just like about Long Covid in children, we should not risk mass infections. What follows from this?

Baumann: I am a representative of children’s vaccinations. And we should protect children in particular where we can – especially the little ones, as long as there are still unapproved vaccines for all age groups. We don’t yet know the long-term consequences of the virus infection, but we shouldn’t just expose children to this danger.

That also means that the rest of society has to make an effort to keep the incidence as low as possible. We also have to give something back to the younger ones who have put a lot back – precisely so that schools can remain open.

The interview was conducted by Corinna Emundts,

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