‘Kids need health checks after extended school break’

An alliance of non-profit groups focusing on the rights of children from low-income families on Thursday called for health checks and medical vouchers for students, saying the long break from face-to-face classes has taken a toll on children’s wellbeing.

The Alliance for Children Development Rights said students mostly stayed home amid the latest Covid outbreak, with children from grassroots families being affected the most due to a lack of living space.

It added that these families are also subject to more stress and financial pressure, with hundreds of parents saying they had to give up work to take care of their children at home.

A member of the alliance, Catlyn Ho, said the government’s decision to shift the summer break from July to March was also damaging to pupils’ psychological health.

According to a survey the alliance conducted with more than 300 primary school students, children had wanted to go outdoors, exercise, join extra-curricular activities and travel during the summer vacation.

“Their emotion and their mental health [has become] worse also, as they stay at home for a very long time, they have nothing to do and they have conflicts with their family members and they cannot go out to play to meet their friends. They don’t have any social life,” Ho explained.

She also pointed out that many children developed health problems as a result of the extensive use of electronic devices during the pandemic, including short-sightedness and back issues.

She urged the government or schools to give all students a health check so that appropriate help can be provided, adding that low-income families will also need medical vouchers for any follow-up treatment.

The alliance also called on the authorities to subsidise tutorial and extra-curricular activities for children from low-income families, so that they can catch up on the lost time for their growth and development.