The right to education, even when ill 

It seems self-evident. Even when you are ill for a long time, you preserve the right to learn and keep your place in the social environment of your class group.
For 25 years now the right to education has been established as a right of every child, as formulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Since 2006 Bednet makes sure that this fundamental right is fulfilled. But it is only since 1 September 2015 that synchronous internet education (SIE) is structurally embedded in the educational system of the Flemish Community. This results in the right to SIE for every child with a chronic or long term illness.

Along with lessons, and all the rest

Bednet takes care that children and youngsters who are absent for a shorter or longer period because of illness, surgery or pregnancy, can continue attending the lessons – from their home and with their own class group. In the educational law it is called: synchronous internet education (SIE) - real-time distance education. It is available for pre-school children from the age of 5, pupils of primary and secondary schools. It applies to all certified state subsidized schools in Flanders and Brussels. The equipment and the counselling is free for schools and families, and this throughout the period in which the child needs it.

Bednet aims at limiting arrears in learning by providing a set of tailor-made lessons. This way 9 children out of 10 succeed in passing on to the next class despite their absence from school. Moreover Bednet makes an opening in the isolation of the child by enabling regular contacts with peers. The illness recedes to the background and the child is temporarily back with friends ‘in his or her class group’. The non-profit organisation always collaborates with the parents, the school and other partners, such as temporary schooling at home, and volunteers form the hospital schools and the organisation ‘School & Ziekzijn’ (school and being ill).

Bednet in practice

Bednet creates a live connection between the pupil with an illness and his or her class group. The pupils and the teacher see the youngster on the flat screen at the back of the classroom. The child at home can direct a camera, enabling him or her to attend the lesson and/or talk to peers. Bednet uses a system that is easy to use. The pupil participates actively in the lesson, answers questions, can send and receive documents and take part in group work. Just as if the pupil were really sitting in the classroom.

Bednet operates with regional consultants in the different provinces. They do the follow-up of the children and confer with parents, hospital and school.  They plan everything and take care of the concrete organisation. A technical helpdesk supports children and school throughout the project.

Bednet in numbers

  • In the first full schoolyear during which Bednet was active (2007-2008), 37 children were supported.
  • In the schoolyear 2015-2016 that number had increased to 335.
  • Since the start 1,569 children with a long time or chronic illness have used Bednet in 887 Flemish schools with synchronous internet education.
  • One out of five Flemish schools has supported a youngster with a chronic or long term illness by linking him or her with the class group using Bednet. In an increasing number of schools this took place two or more times.
  • 263 children have worked with Bednet support during more than one schoolyear.
  • The children and youngsters live in all parts of Flanders and Brussels. Two out of three Bednet users attend secondary school.
  • 40% of these children uses Bednet during 7 months to 1 schoolyear.
  • Cancer remains the most common pathology with 41% of all users.

The future

Under the authority of the Flemish Government Bednet faces the big challenge of guaranteeing the right to SIE for each and every child with a long term illness.

Besides the Flemish Government other structural partners support Bednet. There are also private sponsors. This support is necessary to ascertain that the computer equipment for the continually increasing number of children and schools remains free of charge.

Some quotes

“I have a difficult schoolyear behind me because I was not able to attend courses during a long time because of my illness (late stage Lyme). Thanks to Bednet I could keep up with the courses and I was able to do my exams. Many thanks!” (Aïsha)

“We really feel supported by your organisation and have more time now to focus on the medical care for our little daughter. Thanks a lot!” (Mum of Floor)

“When Mathias was attending a lesson using Bednet, I saw how he cheered up. That is of priceless value. Those moments are very, really very valuable.” (teacher Shana).

“Since having Bednet, I feel like I'm back in touch with the world.  Before, I felt like an outsider watching the world go on without me.  Now I'm no longer just an onlooker.”

“Louis can join in with everything: he gets new subject material from the teacher and does the same exercises. He also shares the jokes and fun times with his friends at school, he joins them in a singsong … In short, he feels he belongs again.”

 

Interesting article on the site of Flanders Today.

 

BEDNET vzw - Bondgenotenlaan 134 bus 4 - 3000 LEUVEN
016 20 40 45 – www.bednet.be  - info@bednet.be

Els Janssens, Managing Director, 0473 77 69 82, els.janssens@bednet.be