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In sickness and in class


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In sickness and in class

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These days many educational projects are adapting their methods for sick children. If a child has to live in a sterile environment for example, how can they keep up with their education? Well, it takes effort but it can be done.

Portugal: Skype school

At the Portuguese Institute of Oncology in Oporto they treat children with cancer. But they also make great efforts to ensure that their patients don’t fall behind with their school work.

Sometimes it is possible to teach children in groups in something like a classroom. But at other times, the children need to be isolated from others, and remain in a sterile environment, so before going to see them, the teacher has to change clothes, disinfect hands, and put a cap and a mask on. Also, all the equipment used, including paper and laptops, have to be sterilised or disinfected.

While Nadine was living in isolation, she did lessons via Skype. From middle school onwards children here are connected to their schools via the internet. They can watch a regular class or have private lessons with their teachers. Nadine doesn’t feel that having virtual lessons is a disadvantage.

Chile: hospital lessons

Jenny Salas has been a hospital teacher for 9 years now. She works for a pioneering NGO which has helped educate 60.000 hospitalised children so far. She explained: “What we have to do is reconsider the work we do in the classroom, partly to compensate for them being here. We try to make the time we are with them, whatever it is, the best, and the most normal as possible for them.”

The NGO was set up in 1998 by the mother of a woman who died in a car crash, but who had spent time in hospital as a child. During that time, her mother, Sylvia Riquelme, the president of the Carolina Labra Riquelme Foundation, was solely responsible for her education. She remembers teaching one child with cerebral palsy: “One girl had amazing achievements. The only thing she wanted was to study, to be trained, she learned to read, to say a few words, and most importantly, got onto a training course, something that neither she nor her mother had ever dreamed of.”

The foundation is now lobbying for a law enshrining the right of all children to be educated while in hospital.

UK: mission to explain

Explaining complicated medical concepts to adults can be difficult – and even more so to children. So in 2009 two doctors came up with a series of cartoon superheros called The Medikidz, who are on a mission to help young people understand their conditions.

Kate Hersov, Medikidz co-founder explained: “We used superheros, The MediKidz, a gang of five superheroes from planet Mediland, a planet shaped like the human body, out in space. And we use these five characters as a vehicle to engage children so we can educate them. So what we try and do is allow a child to understand, if they’re told they have type 1 diabetes, what is the pancreas, how does it work.”

Since their launch, they have produced 60 different titles, and distributed 2.5 million comic books in 30 languages across 50 countries. All the text is written by doctors, and reviewed by leading consultants and the Medikidz Youth Advisory Board.

They have produced 60 different titles, including books on asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV and leukaemia. The books not only help children understand their own conditions, but also help them deal with medical conditions affecting friends and family.

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