Bednet: A social initiative for sick children


Bednet offers 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.

Since 2006 Bednet has made sure that a fundamental right under Convention on the Rights of the Child 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.

Along with lessons, 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. This real-time distance education is available for pre-school children from the age of five, pupils in primary and secondary schools. It applies to all certified state subsidized schools in Flanders and Brussels. The equipment and the counselling are free for schools and families, throughout the period in which the child needs it.

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’. 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. 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 was really sitting in the classroom.

In the first full school year during which Bednet was active (2007-2008), 37 children were supported.  In the school year 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. Cancer remains the most common pathology with 41% of all users.

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.

“I have a difficult school year 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)