It’s hard to imagine elementary, middle and high school without the help of parents. While growing up, there are countless lunches made, thousands of outfits picked out, many mornings waiting at the bus stop, hundreds of hours spent on homework and dozens of parent-teacher meetings to ensure wellbeing. For many, this wouldn’t be possible without the help of mom and dad.
For left behind children, school is still important. But without the love and support of parental attention, it might not be as trouble-free.
According to UNICEF, parental supervision and presence is vital during the time when children learn the importance of studying and school. UNICEF found in their study, The Situation of Children Left Behind by Migrating Parents, that most LBC involved mentioned that their school performance has decreased since their parents’ departure. This can be for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, parents aren’t around to help students manage their time. It is understandably hard for elementary age children to balance freedom and schoolwork. One child involved with UNICEF’s study mentioned, “It’s difficult to stay at home and study when you are alone and friends invite you: ‘Come out!’ And nobody is there to stop you from going,”
UNICEF also consulted with local public school administrators on the school habits of LBC, and found that many teachers and headmasters are also noticing many LBC having a hard time. “Their school performance is going down. Grandparents and aunts provide them with food and clothes. In the majority of cases the material aspect is taken care of. But considering their successes at school, it is hard for an old person to look after a child,” one administrator mentioned.
LBC often times have responsibilities outside of school. Household activities that were taken care of by parents are now the duties of children. Because of this, finding time to study can be hard.
Experts, parents and teachers alike are concerned for what may seem inevitable: LBC dropping out of school. “The risk of dropping out of school goes up. It all begins with the fact that the child left without any care is late because he or she forgot to set the alarm and then…” says a representative of the District Department of Education, Youth and Sports involved with the UNICEF study.
A study of 250 middle-school aged LBC in rural Hubei Province found that more than half of the students experienced difficulties adapting to the absence of their parents and performed poorly in school. “Parental migration has not given children left behind a significant advantage in educational prospects as their parents had hoped. This is unfortunate, because one of the primary reasons for migration is to better provide for one’s children,” says Yao Lu, facilitator of the study The Education of Children Left Behind in Rural China.
Although the education of LBC seems a bit hopeless, UNICEF provides some comforting information: some teachers and administrators are recognizing the struggles of LBC and are extending a helping hand.
Many times this is difficult because parents planning to migrate do not notify school administrators. Additionally, LBC often hide their difficulties to avoid being the center of attention and to prevent their parents from learning about such difficulties.
For some LBC, teachers are the only people the can approach to share and consult with difficult subjects. “Sometimes we also accomplish this role, to get close to them, to discuss with them and even to caress them. We try to fill the gap created in their souls by their parents’ departure,” explained a teacher involved with the UNICEF study.
This issue tugs at the heartstrings of Global Children’s Vision. Much of our work is aimed at providing a safe and comfortable place in schools for a community of LBC to study, learn and freely communicate with their families. We dream to change the lives of countless LBC, and part of that dream is ensuring that they understand the importance of school and are encouraged to work hard for their future.
Garvriliuc, Cezar. “The Situation of Children Left Behind by Migrating Parents.”UNICEF Study Report (2006)
Yao, Lu. “Education of Children Left Behind in Rural China.” Journal of Marriage and Family (2012).