A survey of Japanese children found that many wanted clearer explanations and more detailed information on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The survey was conducted in late March by Save the Children Japan. Its aim was to find out what children were thinking amid the widening impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to clarify their feelings regarding the reopening of school and entering a higher level of education, as well as their lives after graduation. The survey targeted students from elementary school age and higher (up to around 18 years old), who responded to a questionnaire via the Internet or postal mail. The questionnaires were sent to individuals directly involved in the activities of Save the Children Japan or to organizations involved in child education. A total of 1,422 valid questionnaire responses were received.
Gathering and analyzing the open-ended questions revealed multiple cases of overlapping answers, so the responses received were divided into a number of categories. One of the main categories saw many responses related to the COVID-19 crisis. This category was seen in the case of 757 of the questionnaire responses, or 53.2% of all those surveyed. Within this broad category, more specific issues included the need to provide information and respect children’s opinions, which was mentioned in 132 responses or 9.3%. This was an issue cited more frequently by the older students among the respondents, with over 20% of high-school students mentioning it.
Some of the comments among high school students included the following: “I understand that the government had to respond to an unexpected situation, but so many things happened so suddenly that it was upsetting. I want to hear about measures that are more planned out,” (second-year high school student in Kanagawa Prefecture). “I would like to hear an expert seriously examine whether the educational opportunities that were sacrificed were actually beneficial (to curbing the spread of infection), and for this to be clearly explained to the students (including myself) who lost those opportunities,” (second-year high school student in Kagoshima Prefecture).
The written responses of the younger children surveyed, such as the following, also reflect the confusion and anger they felt about the sudden change in their lifestyles: “I want for someone to also explain to children where the coronavirus came from,” (first- to third-grade age bracket in Aichi Prefecture). “If a similar problem happens in the future, I want a clear explanation to be made for why schools must be temporarily closed, rather than just making a sudden announcement,” (second grader in Kanagawa Prefecture).
A representative of Save the Children Japan offered the following comment: “The survey results show that when formulating policies related to the pandemic, there again needs to be recognition that children are members of society through such measures as adequately providing them with information to understand what is occurring and providing opportunities for them to express their opinion (as stipulated by Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child).”
(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Students listening a message from the principal at an elementary school in Shinagawa, Tokyo, that resumed classes after the lifting of the state of emergency; June 1, 2020. © Jiji.)