Regaining confidence after school closures
How COVID-19 school closures affected the learning and overall development of children with disabilities in Cambodia
Schools are not just a safe space for children to learn. In-person learning helps children build the all-important social and emotional skills that are much more difficult to achieve through a screen.
Chin Kimheng, 6, was a shy student when she started school in 2016. Having an intellectual disability, she faced challenges learning to read and write. Despite these barriers, she has always enjoyed being in the school environment. During recess, she would happily join her classmates on playground activities that she enjoyed.
Over the years, her family saw her grow in both confidence and academic achievements at school. With support from her teacher, she was able to improve her reading and writing.
When COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, Kimheng, like millions of children across the region, was no longer able to attend classes and her parents were quick to notice how much this affected her academic and social development.
School closures are a major disruption to the daily lives of children. For children with disabilities, closures created additional barriers to accessing education. Without the additional support and accessible learning platforms they need for online or remote learning, many children with disabilities were at risk of dropping out of the education system altogether. When schools finally reopened, Kimheng’s once thriving 20-student classes with three teachers had dropped to only five or six students and one teacher.
It has never been more important to remove the barriers to education that children face. For children with disabilities, it is critical to also address the challenges that prevent them from being a part of an inclusive learning environment. Even before COVID-19, Kimheng’s family felt her access to education could be improved as she was only able to attend morning classes for children with disabilities.
Since returning to school, Kimheng has been regaining confidence in her relationship with other children and her family hopes that she will have access to more academic opportunities that will equip her with the skills she needs to thrive later in life.
UNICEF will continue working to boost inclusion and learning opportunities for children with disabilities across East Asia and Pacific region.