Like the rest of the world, the Dutch Caribbean was hit hard by COVID-19 and its direct consequences. The strict safety measures have brought the tourism sector to a standstill, meaning many families are now facing a severe loss of income. Schools are closed, children’s education has been interrupted and many are missing out on their daily school meals. COVID-19 not only disrupts public life, health care and the economy, it also puts children and their future at risk. UNICEF aims to support families through this difficult time by providing tools, tips and advice.
In many countries all over the world, UNICEF supports children studying at home. We know how to lift children’s spirits when they are scared or sad, and encourage them to share their opinions and talk about what’s on their minds. We will be sharing all of this experience with parents, teachers and children in Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten. On this page, you can find information on education, how to navigate home life, how to keep an eye on vulnerable children, and how to help teenagers through this difficult time.
Are you a child care professional looking for resources on how to deal with the various challenges of keeping children safe during a global pandemic? UNICEF Netherlands has created a platform for child protection professionals in the Dutch Caribbean with tools, resources and important information to support you in your efforts to protect children.
With the lockdown measures in place, most daily life revolves in and around the home. Most children in the Caribbean are now attending classes online, which means they rely much more heavily on their parents for guidance. We’ll support parents and help them navigate some of the challenges these coming weeks, from talking to children about COVID-19 to keeping homes happy, safe and clean.
For some children, school is the safest place to be. With more time spent at home, they are more likely to suffer from both emotional and physical abuse. Other children, like those in alternative care, miss the structure of daily activities such as school and family visits. This can lead to behavioural problems, and can be difficult on parents and caregivers. Families already caring for children with disabilities or with behavioural problems are likely to face more hardship behind closed doors.
We encourage parents experiencing such difficulties to reach out for help
For teenagers, the COVID-19 pandemic upends some of the most important moments of their lives. No school, no friends to visit, no sports and perhaps not even a graduation ceremony. But even though this is a difficult time, teenagers have an important role to play as agents of change. Teenagers are able to take matters into their own hands by being responsible, helping where they can, getting in touch with other teenagers around the world and sharing their ideas. We will be sharing information that can be useful for teenagers while facing these challenging matters.
Yara is four years old and loves to colour. Usually, her dad would drop her off at GLA in the morning and her mom, Domino, picks her up at the end of the afternoon. Yoga, math, and Dutch are her favorite classes. Yara was also very excited about a new playhouse that was built just a week before the school closed due to the corona epidemic.
Yara: “The playhouse had a tunnel, slides and more. But now I cannot go to school anymore because I can get sick. I miss my teacher and my friends, but I have school now on the computer. It is easy for me to use the computer, and I like seeing my friends on zoom. After class I play with my toys, do homework, or ride my princess bike on the parking lot.”
Domino: “We are all affected by the uncertainty of this epidemic. As a family, we are just taking it day by day. Although Yara is young, she does pick up the, often negative, messages surrounding the crisis. She said the other day: “I wish God would make everyone better so I can see my friends.” It is important to talk to your kids about their feelings so that you can comfort them. My husband and I try to stick to the motto ‘lead by example’. If my husband and I keep positive and active despite the challenging circumstances, Yara follows.”
Kyrah Lacroes is 15, and attends HAVO 3 at MPC. She describes herself as “a good and pretty easy going student” who enjoys math, gymnastics and art. During the weekdays, most of her time spent with friends is at school. Now, she follows an online schedule of three subjects a day.
Kyrah: "I usually look forward to going to school because it gets me out of the house and I get to talk to my friends. School always brings something new to my day, which isn’t really the case when you are learning online.
I’ve never done online classes before, but it was pretty easy to figure out. I think most teenagers are pretty good at using technology. It’s important to stay motivated, and just do the work so you don’t fall behind. For me, it helps when I make a little summary of the class or assignments I did for the day.
One aspect of online teaching that I do really miss compared to my usual classes is that it is harder to get the help you need while doing your assignments. When I get stuck and have a question, I can’t just walk over to the teachers' desk, but I need to wait until the teacher answers my questions online over a message. Some teachers are better at this than others."
The Committee on the Rights of the Child recognizes the risks to children during the global corona pandemic. The Committee has called on governments to improve measures to respect the rights of the child, including in education and online learning, rest, child protection, access to child-friendly information and ensuring children’s participation in decision-making processes on the pandemic. This advice also applies to the governments of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Download and read the Committee’s recommendations.