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Bednet - English

The right to education, even when ill

The right to education, even when ill

It seems obvious. Even when a child is ill for a long time, they still have the right to learn and keep up with their classmates.
For the past 25 years, the right to an education has been enshrined as every child’s right under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Bednet has been making sure that this fundamental right is respected since 2006, though synchronous internet education (SIE) has only been structurally embedded in the Flemish Community’s education system since 1 September 2015. This gives every child suffering a chronic or long-term illness a right to SIE.

Along with lessons, and all the rest

Bednet ensures that children and adolescents who are absent from school due to illness, surgery or pregnancy can continue attending lessons – from their home and with their own class. The decree on education calls this synchronous internet education (SIE) - real-time distance learning. It is available for pre-school children from the age of 5 as well as primary and secondary school pupils in all certified state-subsidised schools in Flanders and Brussels. Equipment and counselling are free for schools and families for as long as they are needed.

Bednet strives to prevent children falling behind at school by providing a series of tailor-made lessons, enabling 90% of children who benefit from SIE to move up to the next class, despite their absence from school. Bednet helps children to feel less socially isolated by providing regular contact with their peers. Children forget about their illness and are temporarily back with their classmates. The non-profit organisation always works with parents, schools and other partners, such as those providing temporary schooling at home and volunteers from hospital schools and School & Ziekzijn.

Bednet in practice

Bednet creates a live connection between sick children and their classmates, whereby pupils and teachers in class can see the absent child on a flat screen at the back of the classroom. The child at home can manoeuvre a camera, allowing them to attend lessons and/or talk to their peers. Bednet uses a straightforward system. Children actively participate in lessons, answer questions, can send and receive documents, and take part in group work – just as if they were really sitting in the classroom.

Bednet works with regional consultants in the different provinces. The consultants monitor the children and communicate with parents, hospitals and schools.  They plan everything and take care of the practical details. A technical helpdesk supports children and schools throughout the process.

Bednet in numbers

  • In Bednet’s first full school year of operation (2007-2008), it supported 37 children.
  • This number rose to 335 during the 2015-2016 school year, and to 511 this year.
  • Since Bednet was launched, 1,593 children with a long-term or chronic illness have used SIE in 1,111 Flemish schools.
  • One out of five Flemish schools has supported a pupil with a chronic or long-term illness by using Bednet to connect them with their classmates. Increasing numbers of schools have done this multiple times.
  • 359 children have received Bednet support lasting two or more school years.
  • The children and adolescents involved live in all parts of Flanders and Brussels. 69% of Bednet users attend secondary school.
  • 55% of children use Bednet for between seven months and one school year.
  • Cancer remains the most common illness suffered, affecting 26% of all users.

The future

The Flemish government has entrusted Bednet with the huge task of guaranteeing the right to SIE for each and every child suffering a long-term illness.

Alongside the Flemish government, Bednet is supported by other structural partners and private sponsors. This support is necessary to guarantee that the IT equipment required by the ever-growing number of children and schools in need remains free of charge.

Some quotes

“I have had a difficult school year because I could not attend classes for a long time due to my illness (late-stage Lyme disease). Thanks to Bednet I could keep up with my classes and was able to sit my exams. Many thanks!” (Aïsha)

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

“I saw how much happier Mathias was when he attended lessons using Bednet. That is priceless. Those moments are really very, very precious.” (Shana, teacher).

“Since I started using 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 jokes and fun with his friends at school, he joins them in singalongs. In short, he feels he belongs again.”

Interesting article on the site of Flanders Today and on the site of the European Venture Philanthropy Association.

BEDNET vzw - Bondgenotenlaan 134 bus 4 - 3000 LEUVEN
016 20 40 45 –

Mathieu Tallon, Managing Director, 0485 63 04 72,