From March 2020 until February 2022, our children paid a heavy price for COVID and lockdowns. General anxiety and eating disorders, social anxiety and depression, as well as huge gaps in their academic development are just some of the consequences that we are seeing today in our children and will continue to see in the near future. Despite the advent of modern technology and the ability to study from a distance, society has realized that daily learning within a physical social environment is critical for child development.
Yet over the last month, the welfare and academic consequences of the pandemic appear to have been forgotten. Due to the complex and turbulent political situation in the country, general strikes have been called and both staff and students have missed school. Some of those staff and students have attended mass demonstrations. Whether or not one agrees with the demonstrations joining them is a lesson in civics and one’s civic role in a democratic country. Yet many others have stayed away from school on those days.
Some staff and simply take a day off while high school children seem to be under the impression that they can also stay at home. This harms the continuity of learning and missing school should not be taken lightly by children or their parents.
In addition to the general strikes, the Teachers’ Union, in its struggle to increase teachers’ pay and improve working conditions, has also called for strikes. Once again, this has caused both staff and students to be absent from school. Unfortunately, history tells us that this struggle will be long and drawn out. While the raison d’etre of the Teachers’ Union is to protect and support teachers rights, regular strikes, uncertainty and threats cause great damage to our children.
Regular teachers' strikes cause great damage to our children
Might it be possible to find other ways of highlighting the current issues, such as building lessons that teach workers rights and teachers rights or comparing a teacher’s working conditions in this country to those in other countries?
Over the next few months, school calendars are packed with learning, festival and ceremony preparations, annual trips, end-of-year school preparations, as well as exams and bagruyot (matriculation examinations). All of these events and processes are a unique part of the school year and contribute to the positive well-being of students, yet these events and processes require meticulous preparation. With constant striking, daily uncertainty and a severe lack of cohesiveness within society, the emotional well-being of our children does not even seem to be an afterthought.
During and after the pandemic, parents, teachers and even politicians realized that learning in school is something to be treasured, something that should not be taken for granted and that without it, severe damage is caused to the well-being and education of our children. Despite the notable problems that we face in Israel today, Israeli leaders from across the spectrum should be reminded that by preventing our children from attending classes and even encouraging them to miss learning on a daily basis, we are causing them untold harm that will take many years to heal.
The writer is the principal of Studio Ankori – a school for creative thinking and entrepreneurship. Studio Ankori is part of the Ankori Educational Group.