The keynote speaker at the press conference on the current situation regarding the COVID-19 epidemic was the Chair of the Commission for Children with Special Needs of the Council of Experts of the Republic of Slovenia for General Education, psychologist Kristijan Musek Lešnik.
"Slovenian children have been faced with great changes in habits, routines and lifestyles, but they will come out of this period of coronavirus without any permanent psychological consequences. They will be left with the memory of these times, which will be more bitter for some than for others. For example, for those who will have no graduation ceremony or who will miss some other important event," highlighted Mr Musek Lešnik. He added that this epidemic has also had some positive effects on our children: they have developed their ability to adapt, to deal with frustrations and manage their environment. They have also developed their competences, creativity and persistence in coping with less favourable circumstances.
With regard to the re-opening of schools, Mr Musek Lešnik believes that the key issue is to ensure that children return to schools as soon as possible while managing their health and psychosocial risks in a balanced manner. As children go back to schools, the differences among pupils that arose during their time at home will have to be reduced. Preventative psychological measures will also be necessary, involving the strengthening of those life skills that will help children cope with frustration and crisis. Mr Musek Lešnik also highlighted the issue of support for teachers. What kinds of pressure they suffered, how they were prepared for distance teaching and what support and skills they will need in this respect in the future.
In his presentation at the press conference, Mr Musek Lešnik also outlined the broader context. For several years, the international organisation, Save the Children, has been ranking countries according to how well they take care of children. In 2017, Slovenia topped the list for the first time, whereas in 2019, it was ranked second after Singapore in terms of the quality of the housing conditions for children. He believes that there are no indications that children in Slovenia will be any worse off in the future, as the Slovenian education system guarantees high-quality living conditions now and will continue to do so in the future. Furthermore, during the coronavirus epidemic, Save the Children conducted a survey of 6,000 children and parents in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Finland and Spain. According to the results, a quarter of children suffered from anxiety, 65% of children were bored and lonely, 55% of the children in Finland complained of exhaustion, and 33% of the children in Germany were concerned about completing the school year.
A smaller survey conducted by Slovenian researchers has shown that during the quarantine children in Slovenia primarily complained about problems associated with social isolation and feelings of loneliness.