“Children in High Impact Disaster Areas Perform Less, Academically”, says an Australian Study

According to a new study in Australia, children living in natural disaster-prone areas or victims to natural disasters, showed a decline in academic performance in school. Furthermore, their performance was found to be wanting in certain subjects that required high cognitive function.

There has been little or no investigation in the area of children’s schooling in the years following natural disasters, and how that changes the social and mental make up of victims, families, individuals and communities. A collaborative research by the University of Melbourne, Smouldering Stump (a charity to support children affected by natural disasters), Swinburne University of Technology, and the University of New South Wales came up with a detailed report on the after effects of a calamity on children in their growing years and how their learning abilities are affected.

As a sample, the researchers studied 24,642 children who attended primary schools in Victoria, Australia, that were affected by the Black Saturday bushfires in Australia in February 2009. Students living in these regions showed descending grades in certain subjects, like math, or language construction, that require special cognitive abilities.

There were other parameters considered when assessing these students like; parent’s education, language spoken, cultural and health factors, medical histories and whether they came from single- or two-parent families, as well as the potential influence of schools.  Also, when compared these results to the children lived in regions that were not impacted majorly, their growth was found slower. However, gender of the student had no bearing on the outcome of the performances.

The study also proves to be instrumental in defining the right time and course taken for intervention to improve the social, emotional and cognitive situation of these children. Given the time lapse, and the evident delayed effects, this could prove to be monumental in revising learning and designing it specifically for their conditions.