October 30, 2020 12:13 PM
PETALING JAYA: A report from Unicef has found that the Covid-19 pandemic has created new challenges for those living in low-income housing, including the worsening of mental health and increased difficulty in maintaining their children’s education.
The UN agency’s latest “Families on the Edge” paper involved surveying residents of 500 low-cost housing flats in the Klang Valley, which accounted for nearly 3,000 individuals.
Mental health and stability issues widely affected heads of households (HoHs) in the survey, with women more likely to report they were suffering from mental and emotional strain.
Up to 22% of HoHs reported feeling depressed or experiencing extremely unstable emotions, a figure that stood at 29% for female HoHs.
Meanwhile, 42% of male HoHs and 51% of female HoHs reported feeling worried about their future, with fears surrounding their ability to provide food for their families and their diminishing retirement savings their chief concerns.
Nearly a third of female HoHs also reported observing negative behavioural changes among the people they lived with, including increased relationship tension, symptoms of depression and increased substance abuse.
Schooling pressures add to mounting stress
The study also found that children were increasingly absent from school, particularly upper secondary students as 7% were reported to have missed classes since schools reopened.
Nearly a fifth of all HoHs responded that their children had lost interest in their studies following the movement control order (MCO).
Due to economic hardships, nearly 60% of households said they were having difficulty paying tuition fees for their children.
During the MCO when online learning became widespread, nearly 90% of students in low-income housing used mobile phones as their primary learning device, with almost 80% not having access to a computer, which the report warns remains a major concern should schools be forced to close again.
As such, over three quarters of parents said they preferred their children to go to school, key reasons being the lack of work space at home, internet connection as well as learning devices.