NAPLES, ITALY - 29 MAY 2020: Raffaele Giusti (9, 4th grade, center) attends his last day of school, logged in online with his mother's smartphone, as his mother Marilena Colantuono (37) looks at the screen and his sister Ilaria plays with their dog Maya, here in an occupied apartment in Naples, Italy, on May 29th 2020. Raffaele needs to share his mother's smartphone with his two older siblings for online classes, since the family cannot afford a computer or tablet.
In Italy, a country ravaged by the coronavirus, there is a new casualty: Students. Many children from low-income families have effectively dropped out of school, say teachers and charity groups, the result of the prolonged, nation-wide school closure caused by the pandemic. In early March Italy became one of the first countries in the world to shut down all schools, forcing teachers to turn to remote learning. But many families have struggled with the shift, and many children have been left behind. Around 12% of school-age children don’t have a computer or a tablet at home, and parents are often unable or unwilling to help. The Covid dropouts are intensifying a problem that was already there. Even before the pandemic, Italy had one of the highest school dropout rates in Europe. And there is no solution in sight, since schools won’t reopen before September at the earliest. The problem is particularly acute among poor and marginalized communities in places such as Naples, where teenagers are easily lured into the ranks of organized crime syndicates. In one middle-school on the outskirts of the city, for instance, around 10% of students didn’t access online classes at all. Many others participate only occasionally. “I’ve never had this many kids not come to school,” says Barbara De Cerbo, the headmaster. “There is the fear that we’ll lose some of them for good.”
CREDIT: Gianni Cipriano for The Wall Street Journal