Buying brand new stationery supplies, picking out school uniforms and reuniting with friends; back to school period is portrayed as an exciting time for students and families – a portrayal that is also romanticised by the media. It is more than important to acknowledge that in reality, this period is rarely the way it’s represented to us.
It should also be mentioned that these challenges are more than heightened considering our situation as citizens of a post-pandemic world where school closures for extended periods of time disrupted learning and added tremendously to mental health stress.
Struggles for low-income families:
The consequences of several economic crises triggered by the pandemic are still, to this day, affecting many families. With the constant stress of looking after and feeding children who couldn’t attend school and barely managing to pay their bills, they were now faced with a sudden transition back to real life. In a time of increased costs for almost everything from uniforms to the most basic stationery supplies, back to school period symbolises anxiety, instead of excitement. As for the children of these families, not wanting to burden their family with extra expenses, but envying the children with new and fancy backpacks, notebooks and clothes – it’s a period of humble disappointment.
Struggles for children suffering from mental health problems:
As mentioned above, back to school can mean reunion with friends for most students, but this very school environment can be anything but welcoming for students who feel alone at school, and are anxious to go and feel excluded from the people they are expected to be excited to see. Rarely acknowledged as the challenging period it can be for many, mental and emotional support, especially from schools, has been an issue that does not acquire the attention it deserves – which brings us to the main purpose of this article, and Ignite Life in general as well.
How can schools be more inclusive?
There are many different approaches that schools can consider that could make all the difference in smoothening the harsh transition some pupils face when they go back to school.
Here are a few simple examples:
1. Setting up anonymised online forms or email addresses that families can use to share concerns or request support with school costs, or appointing staff members to advise families on financial matters.
2. Encouragement of families to re-check their eligibility for free school meals
3. Rethinking of specific back to school activities such as reflecting on how pupils spent their holidays and shifting the focus on what pupils hope to do this school year.
4. Organising engaging social activities that could catch pupils’ attention, especially those who appear to be struggling with making friends, and pairing them with accepting students instead of letting pupils choose their own groups.
At Ignite Life, we aim to always support young people during hardships, and provide them with access to life-changing opportunities and experiences, especially when traditional support fails to do so. By fundraising for us, donating to our services, or volunteering for us, you too can play your part in raising awareness and supporting those who are affected by child poverty, mental health problems, struggles in education and many more.