The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new and serious challenges for many, if not all, post-secondary students in Canada. No cohort of students have found the transition to lockdown and online learning more difficult than students with dependent children. In recent months, the challenges faced by these students have become evident to the entire Canadian post-secondary community. Many students have witnessed their colleagues being interrupted during their online classes or exams by their children, or have seen their colleagues miss out on in-person experiential workshops because of additional child care commitments brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, COVID-19 has only extended the gaps that students with dependent children face while attending post-secondary education.
The need for proper child care has always been profound for students with dependent children, as they are often required to attend school and find care outside of the typical nine-to-five work schedule. What is more, students from underrepresented demographics are often more likely to have dependent children, therefore making their entry into post-secondary all the more challenging. In fact, one-third of First Nations and one-third of international students are parents, and improving their access to child care would directly ease the load for people who already face systemic barriers.
Unfortunately, there is currently a lack of useful data in Canada available to evaluate the unique needs of students with dependent children. As a result, more study is needed to determine how many child care spaces are required, and where they are needed, to best serve the post-secondary community in Canada.
Therefore, CASA recommends that the Government of Canada do the following to #CloseTheGaps to child care for students with dependent children:
- Include the needs and concerns of post-secondary students in the development of a Canada-wide early learning and child care program.
- Investigate the needs for child care amongst students with dependent children through the biennial Longitudinal and International Study of Adults (LISA).