Wednesday, January 26

Vulnerable children and school closure. Storm in a glass of water or justified concern?

  • Mia Cathrine Myhre

    Pediatrician, PhD, researcher at NKVTS

  • Else-Marie Augusti

    PhD in psychology, researcher at NKVTS

  • Gertrud Sofie Hafstad

    Psychologist, PhD, researcher at NKVTS

The school’s task can not primarily be to protect the children from their own families, Kristin Clemet (pictured) wrote in Aftenposten on Christmas Day. Here, three researchers answer.

That something is not a big problem for the majority must not become a sleeping pad.

This is a debate post. Opinions in the text are at the writer’s expense.

Kristin Clemet suggests in her comment on Christmas Day that politicians and professionals have gone too far in describing the home as dangerous for children and young people, and in highlighting the school’s role in protecting children who are not safe at home.

Among other things, she refers to statements from the National Knowledge Center on Violence and Traumatic Stress (NKVTS), where we have expressed concern based on our research about children and young people.

Clemet is right that most people feel good at home, and we agree that no one benefits from leaving the impression that Norwegian homes are generally a dangerous place. And homeschooling three days before Christmas is also not the core of the issue, as it seems in Clemet’s comment.

The word “vulnerable”

The problem, as we see it, is that the authorities are once again agreeing to use school closure as a tool.

We believe this is problematic for several reasons. Among other things, because school, for some, is absolutely necessary to have a place to go outside the home.

In the post, Clemet also problematizes that the word “vulnerable” has been widely used in the debate around infection control measures, and especially in connection with measures in schools. She herself gives some answers that partly explain why this has come into the media coverage, but ignores the core of the problem.

Some people in our country are particularly hard hit by the measures. In the debate, the word “vulnerable” has been used to refer to people with such challenges.

In this sense, it should be a sign of honor for a society if the very word “vulnerable” was named “new word of the year” in the second year of the pandemic.

Several types of violence

That something is not a big problem for the majority must not become a sleeping pad. It can have significant negative consequences for many.

Research from NKVTS has, like the Welfare Research Institute NOVAs Youth data survey, shown that most young people have done well during the closure.

As we have had a special focus on children and young people who experience violence, we have also been able to conclude that for those living with domestic violence, the situation became more difficult.

Unfortunately, some of the nuances disappear when research is presented in the media, and it is often the most general figures that stick.

When we say that one in six Norwegian young people has experienced violence or abuse during the school closure in the spring of 2020, this means both what most people think of as violence, namely beatings, kicks and beatings, but also having been ridiculed, humiliated or threatened by someone you have a relationship of trust with, often parents.

Stands firmly in the findings

These experiences may not fall under what most people think of as violence, but are covered by the World Health Organization’s definition and are associated with the same health problems as blows and kicks.

Although Clemet seems to question the scope of the figures that have emerged, we are supportive of the findings we present. As Save the Children also emphasizes in Aftenposten on 3 January, the figures show the seriousness of the problem.

The point is not that the school should solve it. The point is that children in Norway need the authorities to take the figures seriously, prevent and protect them through the measures and arenas that exist for this.

Pandemic or not. Keeping schools open is one way to address this.

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