When faced with school closures, not all children react the same. Along with its partners, Fondation de France supports those most at risk, so they don’t leave the classroom permanently.
“Not heard from.” According to the French education ministry, during lockdown 8% of students ceased all contact with their teachers and sometimes even with their friends. “But this national average doesn’t reflect the situation in the poorest neighborhoods or in rural areas,” points out Anne Bouvier, head of the Children and Education Program at Fondation de France. “In some middle schools and high schools, teachers note rates of 30 to 40% for ‘invisible’ students, who don’t turn in any homework and are unreachable.” These teens are among those who were already in difficulty. Cramped living quarters and not enough place to study at home, parents who are not able to help their children with homework, lack of computer equipment…for these students, lockdown can increase the risk of leaving school altogether. Meanwhile, the lack of leisure pursuits, sports, cultural activities, etc. can plunge them into a damaging state of listlessness.
Call to arms against the digital divide
Retailers, digital enterprises, nonprofits, foundations…as soon as lockdown was declared, numerous entities highlighted this priority issue. They all mobilized to supply families with laptop computers, essential for following classes remotely. Fondation de France wishes to support this movement, in partnership with other organizations:
- By supporting the Emmaus Connect / Break Poverty Foundation alliance. These two organizations have united to supply computers to 10,000 young people so they can follow their classes online. Fondation de France’s support made it possible to equip 1,000 children. Beyond the Covid crisis, for the next two years the young beneficiaries will receive guidance from students in the Collectif Mentorat, a coalition of eight associations that work to help children and young adults;
- By partnering with Fondation AFNIC, a Fondation de France donor-advised fund, to offer computers to students at a middle school in the Seine-Saint-Denis department. The project involves total of sixty children. Lent to families most in need today, the computers will then be made available to the school once it reopens;
- With Fondation Bettencourt-Schueller, to equip the Maisons d’enfants (Children’s Houses). These organizations house children and teens who have been placed there by the Aide Sociale à l’Enfance (Youth Social Welfare) according to a judge’s order. Normally, they go to school during the week and sometimes visit their families on the weekends. But since mid-March, these establishments have had to deal with lockdown: organize schoolwork, offer leisure activities to keep the children occupied full-time, and compensate for being cut off from the outside world, not to mention the anxiety generated by this crisis for youngsters who are often already fragile. The united commitment of the Fondation Bettencourt-Schueller and Fondation de France made it possible to fund the acquisition of 100 computers and recreational equipment for 28 Children’s Houses run by the Jean Cotxet association.
“All of these projects complement actions taken by public agencies,” notes Anne Bouvier. “Thus, the education ministry has targeted 80 school complexes, and we have made sure to cover other locations. What’s more, in an effort to be both thrifty and environmental, the computers usually come from vendors who sell reconditioned products.”
Children who are ill: a challenge for the educational community – and the therapeutic community
For some children dealing with mental disorders, lockdown means a pause in treatment, with the risk of “decompensation” and regression. To support the educational and therapeutic communities, Fondation de France has heeded the call of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry department of the Robert Ballanger Hospital in Aubervilliers, in the Seine-Saint-Denis department. With two approaches:
- For young people who are hospitalized, lockdown rules have deprived them of contact with the outside: family visits forbidden, pedagogical activities suspended, etc. What’s more, being sedentary can aggravate their health. Support from Fondation de France made it possible to acquire computer equipment essential to staying in contact with families remotely, or to create a webradio project, or other activities. This support also made it possible to provide sports equipment.
- For young people receiving outpatient treatment (2,800 children and teens), hospital care has been suspended. Fondation de France is helping the department arrange sessions for young people and their parents in video consultations, as well as supplying educational and recreational materials for families most in need. “Another strong point of this project: it incorporates introducing parents to digital applications that develop verbal and psychomotor skills in autistic children,” explains Mélanie Hubault, head of the Young People’s Health Program. “In a peer-to-peer set up, because this training is run by an association of parents of autistic children.”
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