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Disadvantaged children in Germany bear the brunt of school closures

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By Lena Roche
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Child being helped with his homework at 'Die Arche'
Child being helped with his homework at 'Die Arche'   -   Copyright  euronews
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'Making children strong for life!' this slogan sums up how 'Die Arche', The Ark, reaches out to support socially disadvantaged children in Germany. The association offers children a free lunch and help with homework. It is funded almost entirely by donations. For many 'Die Arche' is like a second home. However, the pandemic forced schools and associations like 'Die Arche' to close for months and children are feeling the impact. Many have lost their bearings.

Daniel Schröder, head of 'Die Arche' in Frankfurt highlighted to euronews a few of the problems experienced by children during the months his association and schools were closed. He explains that mobile phone addiction is a real problem. He knows of one boy who would spend 16 hours a day glued to his phone. According to Schröder this in some part was caused by cramped living conditions. As many disadvantaged children didn't have their own space they used their phones to "beam themselves away".

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Daniel Schröder, Head of 'Die Arche' in Frankfurteuronews

During pandemic closures, some children of foreign language parents even forgotten part of their German and nearly all have suffered a setback. Schools have since reopened and things have gone back to relative normality, but for disadvantaged pupils, this is not enough to catch up. Schools need more funding. Schröder says these families are being forgotten by politicians.

"Voter turnout in the districts where 'Die Arche' works is extremely low. There's a lot of AfD support and that means there is nothing for politicians to gain here", he argues. To him that's the scary and unjust thing about this system, "instead of looking for where people have the most needs, which schools need the best equipment, the politicians look at where their voters are."

Mimunt Halli is one person who is missing out. She has three children aged 14, 11 years and 9. Her husband has a job and earns 1600 euros a month and they struggle to make ends meet. She has asked social services in vain for tuition hours for her son. She is also on a waiting list for a bigger flat since 2008. She has now turned to 'Die Arche' for help.

She told euronews that 'Die Arche' signifies hope to her because her requests are answered, "either they get accepted or rejected". However, she tells us that state administration does not do that, "you don't get an answer, you just get turned away."

To Schröder, many people have no idea of the hardships poor families face in Germany. For several children at his association, lunch there is the only real meal they get a day. He has taken it upon himself to make sure that no child is left behind. He does so that "unity and peace" in Germany remains. His biggest fear, which he already sees happening, "is that the divide between rich and poor will continue to get bigger and bigger."

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Children and teachers enjoying a meal at 'Die Arche'euronews

He is disappointed that the subject of child poverty is only addressed from time to time and feels that long-term solutions are needed. 'Die Arche' is calling for a basic income for children, half of which would go to the families and the other half to schools.