The pandemic has shown that opening educational and care facilities is not seen as a child’s right, but rather primarily as a way of ensuring work-life balance. The early-childhood education services, which have been available again to a limited extent since around the end of April 2020, were mainly reserved for children of parents working in essential services (and from late April 2020 also for children of solo parents), and were only used by one in ten children.
The shortcomings in the education system that already existed before the crisis have been heightened by the pandemic, and reducing educational services has had serious negative effects on the rights of many children and adolescents, such as the decline in education quality and intensification of educational inequality (Art. 28 and 29 UN CRC). Children also lacked quiet spaces and daily routine at home, which sometimes resulted in more frequent family conflicts and greater child-welfare risks (Art. 19). Mental strain, shortcomings in care and healthy eating habits (Art. 6 and 24), a lack of contact with peers (Art. 15) and educators, and less exercise and time spent outdoors, and less playing, culture and recreation (Art. 31) were additional consequences. Opportunities for undertaking extracurricular education and participating in (organised) youth work have been, and continue to be, massively reduced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with the consequences not yet clear.
Children and adolescents were not sufficiently involved – on their own behalf or through representatives – in dealing with the crisis itself. For instance, Germany’s Minister for Family Affairs was not invited to any of the federal government’s crisis talks, nor were children or adolescents systematically given the chance to contribute their priorities and ideas for coping with everyday life or restructuring educational services.
- The National Coalition Germany recommends that the UN Committee call on the German federal government to
- 01. Give greater weight to children’s rights to participation, support and protection to cater to their best interests in education, in addition to the infection-control considerations previously treated as a priority.
- 02. Ensure the digitisation of educational services goes hand in hand with further developing educational quality and inclusion, so that already disadvantaged children are not impacted even more negatively than other children.
- 03. Proactively involve children in tackling the crisis at educational and care facilities, listen to them, and appropriately take their opinion into account.
- 04. Ensure further scientific studies on pandemic events also always focus on the effects crises have on children and their rights, including particularly concentrating on already disadvantaged children, resilience factors among children and families, children’s participation in crises, and educational injustice.