From: Alice Taylor
How COVID is Impacting Children in Albania and Kosovo

More than half of children in Albania and Kosovo suffered or are suffering stress from missing school friends due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from World Vision.

More than three quarters added that they were not stressed about missing school or falling behind in their studies. The majority were also not concerned about whether their education would continue next year.

Over 80% of those surveyed had enrolled in online and distance earning during the pandemic. Around 20% were completely deprived of education. Over 60% were concerned about the effectiveness of learning in this way. Most also were unable to access a decent connection to stream lessons, others did not have enough equipment to share in multi-child households.

Thankfully, most also reported that they didn’t have concerns over the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic.

But being cut off from friends was a big deal with most reporting they missed socialising, being in groups, and talking to friends. Those surveyed said that not being able to see family members and not being allowed to hug and kiss them was a source of distress.

Respondents described feeling “distress”, “upset”, and “frustration” during lockdown. Feelings of loneliness, confusion, and fear were also noted. It was noted however that both girls and boys developed new ways to keep themselves busy and manage their boredom. Many reported they started reading more and learning about topics they previously hadn’t.

Just over half said they were concerned about contracting the virus themselves, or their family members getting sick. Overall, the worry was higher for their parents or grandparents, when compared to them.

According to the data, girls were more likely to stress over seeing friends and family, or health, than their male counterparts. Boys were more prone to worrying about economic issues than women.

In terms of the time spent at home, around half were taking on additional household duties. Of course, girls took on almost double the work of boys.

Sadly, only 48% of Albanian children are optimistic about the future, while around 30% of Kosovo children feel positive.

Girls and boys in both countries expressed concerns that the pandemic could result in more child marriages.  With more poverty, families are more likely to marry off daughters to alleviate the perceived burden of caring for them. Respondents spoke of concerns over forced engagement and marriage as well as child labour.

Some of those interviewed said they were aware of children selling items and begging to help support their families. 2.1% of children in Albania and 5.3% in Kosovo were working during the pandemic. Sectors included construction, agriculture, hospitality or online work.

32% of Albanian children and 26% of Kosovo children said they had experienced physical and emotional violence during the pandemic.  Incidents included being hit, slapped, kicked, having hair pulled, or being forced to remain to remain kneeling. In half of cases, it was from a family member, but in around 43% of cases, it was from another individual.

Psychological violence included being shouted and screamed at, sworn at, being called names, being humiliated, threatened,  and being made to feel unimportant.

The children said that they looked to their parents for support first, followed by siblings, friends, religious leaders, teachers, and grandparents. Boys were less likely to reach out for support from any of them.