If you want to know how severe the effects of the pandemic are on children and young people already and still are, the best thing you can do is ask the elderly. Someone with many years of professional experience and therefore the best opportunities to compare – someone like educator Olaf Stevens. For 26 years, six of them as principal, he worked at the district-oriented Oggersheimer Spielwohnung, which is located on the ground floor of the “In der Langewann” primary school.
“Many kids have forgotten how to behave in a group during the pandemic,” says the 56-year-old. Social interaction is particularly difficult for school starters because the coronavirus lockdowns have hit the day care area particularly hard. At Langewann Primary School, first graders receive special training in social skills. How do I deal with others how do I learn respect?
In order to pass this on to the kids, Stevens relies on cooperation games – and so it so happens that he trains first graders to be hackers in the school gymnasium. The children must first build a ship out of mats, then they have to move objects from A to B and find a path through the liana forest together.
300 additional places to support learning
After school, the Oggersheimer Spielwohnung also offers socio-educational learning support. Here comes the role of the total 283 thousand euros received by the city, according to a distribution key from the “Catch up after Corona” work program of the Ministry of Education.
According to Sabine Heiligenthal, head of the municipality’s Department of Youth Development and Educational Advice, the funding decision was received in November, and has also benefited independent providers. A total of €123,000 was passed to the Workers Welfare Organization, the Citizens’ Initiative of Ludwigshafen (Bill), the Christian Church and the Ecumenical Society. Heiligenthal: “Players in the 24 open work facilities for children and youth in Ludwigshafen can now offer an additional 300 places per week to support extracurricular learning.”
Big language barriers
Manuel Schweimler reports that this educational support is not only urgently needed in areas such as Augersheim – where, according to Olaf Stevens, there are significant language barriers for many children due to immigration backgrounds – but also in more rural areas such as Rochem. He is a social worker and has been running the Youth Leisure Center in Ruchheim for the past two years. There, too, individual and intensive support for children and young adults is provided in the afternoons.
Schweimler asserts that “the set of problem areas has opened since the beginning of the Corona pandemic.” Some children will have to start over to focus on learning. “Of course it was there before the epidemic, but now many, many children are affected by it,” says the 43-year-old. Some students also have significant problems with group dynamics and large size, so they find it difficult to return to the class structure.
There are currently 17 registrations to support extracurricular learning at the Youth Leisure Center in Ruchheim. Schweimler: “We are fully booked, but with the help of funding from the federal program, we were able to increase our capacity by about a third and now we no longer have a waiting list.”
When asked about concrete progress the children were making, he said, “We have one case where a student was only able to focus on their tasks for ten minutes initially, but now approximately 40 minutes of focus time is now possible.” This of course makes it fun, and learning is much easier.
Parent-Toddler-Café in Oggersheim
City management can access the available funds by May 2023, says Sabine Heiligenthal. But positive effects are also expected in the time after that: “Of course we are counting on the fact that the support that is now expanded will mean that more children and young people will have access to our offerings – and that they will continue to do so in addition to the 300 learning support places, which the program makes available Federal “Catch up after Corona”, the open work facilities for children and youth in Ludwigshafen offer an average of 1,250 such places.
Because the city administration, thanks to several applications with the support of the metropolitan area Rhein-Neckar GmbH, was able to take advantage of another funding fund, the “Auf! leben – Zukunft ist meine” (“Live – the future is now”), supported by the Children’s Foundation And German youth, more funding offers can be implemented for children and young people. According to Heiligenthal, a total of about 369,000 euros of the requested funds has been approved.
This has already enabled a talent program at the youth farm in Pfingstweide, and social skills training as part of the multicultural soccer league “buntkicktgut”, or the parent-child café that takes place once a week in Oggersheim’s playing apartment. “There is a lack of childcare, single parents in particular are in dire need of help,” Olaf Stevens says.
Offers such as “DanceLU”, “Discover the area with a garden” or “Keep away from fast food – healthy nutrition for children” will also be implemented through the funding.