GPE helps partner countries overcome the COVID-19 impact on education

GPE has been supporting partner countries’ efforts to quickly adjust to the new reality and adapt their education systems to create innovative forms of schooling.

June 17, 2021 by GPE Secretariat
5 minutes read
Samantha, 17, listens to radio lessons with her mother, Kayirangwa Mary Assoumpta, outside their home. Credit: © UNICEF Rwanda/2020/Saleh
Samantha, 17, listens to radio lessons with her mother, Kayirangwa Mary Assoumpta, outside their home. Rwanda
Credit: © UNICEF Rwanda/2020/Saleh

When the pandemic hit, it profoundly disrupted education systems across the world and threatened to amplify education inequalities and an existing learning crisis. The most vulnerable and marginalized children have been hit the hardest and are at a higher risk of not returning to school.

To help prevent a deepening loss of learning and potential, GPE mobilized its most rapid and largest-ever emergency response to help governments sustain learning for up to 355 million children in the poorest countries. As of last May, US$399 million of the $500 million COVID funding allocated was disbursed.

GPE funding has been supporting partner countries’ efforts to quickly adjust to the new reality and adapt their education systems to create innovative forms of schooling. Partner countries have proven resilient and firmly committed to ensure teaching and learning continues.

Ensuring children continue learning remotely

As schools closed, the first step was to ensure children could continue learning.

To reach this goal, the GPE-supported programs focus on building the capacity of ministries of education to design and implement distance or home-based learning programs at scale. They include a combination of no-tech, low-tech and high tech learning methods to match the countries’ contexts: printed materials distributed to students, dropboxes for student to get homework reviewed, radio lessons, WhatsApp groups for Q&A with teachers, TV programs and online platforms.

These multi-faceted methods were key to ensure the most vulnerable children could also be reached.

95% of GPE COVID-19 grants include distance/ home-based learning programs to support children during the pandemic.

In Pakistan, the GPE-funded program is expanding access to education content and providing learning materials for the hardest to reach children most at risk of dropping out or being exposed to social pressures or abuse.

In Rwanda, the GPE grant supports the expansion of equitable remote learning opportunities by broadcasting curriculum-aligned radio lessons, along with promoting the use of alternative materials on TV and on Rwanda Education Board’s YouTube channel.

“I enjoy studying on both radio and television. I particularly like the program “Study Time” and e-learning because there are questions and detailed explanations.”
“I enjoy studying on both radio and television. I particularly like the program “Study Time” and e-learning because there are questions and detailed explanations.”
Yvette Marie
Student, during the COVID-19 school shutdown. Rwanda

Helping teachers adapt to the new teaching reality

The COVID-19 pandemic also forced teachers to quickly adapt to a new education landscape. To facilitate this transition, GPE’s COVID-19 funding supports teacher training in using distance learning methods; provides materials to support distance learning; and offers psychosocial support to teachers.

It also provides financial incentives to teachers to ensure they don’t leave the profession.

69% of COVID-19 grants support teachers during the pandemic.

In Somalia, teachers, in particular female teachers and those living in remote areas and emergency settings, received financial incentives as a temporary safety net during the pandemic.

“In the beginning, we were worried about what will happen to our students, but with this online and offline learning system, learning continued for many children, who now have access to learning while at home. With the support of the parent and schoolteacher remotely, I believe the learning experience will help children continue their classes during school closure.”
Najma Ali, schoolteacher. Somalia

In Cabo Verde, the GPE grant supports the training of teachers in the use of digital platforms and in the creation of content tailored for online learning.

Returning to school safely

Once schools started reopening, it was key to ensure children would return to a safe and healthy environment. GPE funding supports efforts to ensure students, especially those at highest risk of dropping out—girls and children with disabilities—return to school. GPE is also funding water, sanitation and hygiene facilities and health promotion activities to allow for a safe return to school.

In Zanzibar handwashing stations and additional sanitation and hygiene facilities were constructed, in conjunction with the launch of a campaign to sensitize parents, community members and teachers on the importance of children going back to school.

In Lao PDR, online rapid surveys were launched to help alleviate concerns about going back to school and inform the joint efforts by the ministries of education and health in developing clear guidelines and communications materials for the safe return to school.

Ketsavan Chalensouk, 18, was able to finish grace 12 after schools reopened. Credit - UNICEF Laos-2020-AKarki.png
“We were at home for too long. This is my last year in school and I was worried that we will not be able to appear for state exams. I am so relieved to be back.”
Ketsavan Chalensouk
Student, Lao PDR

Building system resilience

The closure of schools, even with mitigation measures in place, will result in slower learning progress. GPE funding has been supporting large-scale assessment to identify learning gaps and inform remedial actions to help children catch up faster.

In Niger, refresher course materials and training modules on remedial instruction for primary and secondary school teachers have been developed.

In Zambia, teachers were trained in how to mitigate the loss of learning during school closures and accelerate learning now that schools are fully reopened and enrollment has increased in many districts.

Coordinating the global response through a consortium

Early in the pandemic, GPE granted $25 million to a consortium composed of UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank to coordinate and leverage their expertise and generate learning and teaching solutions that can be shared globally. So far, the partnership has produced and disseminated various tools and knowledge materials, such as

  • Imaginécoles, a learning platform for Francophone Africa, reaching 6 million students and 200,000 teachers across 11 countries
  • A girls’ education toolkit with practical approaches that have been or are being tested for girls’ education in crisis context
  • The Learning Passport, an online, mobile and offline platform that enables continuous access to quality education.

GPE’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is laying the groundwork for building more resilient education systems that can reach all children with adapted teaching and learning methods, and that can be applied in case of future crises.


GPE is currently calling on world leaders to “Raise Your Hand” and pledge at least $5 billion for the next five years to help GPE transform education in up to 90 countries and territories, which are home to more than 1 billion children.

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We are a group of community schools providing education to most vulnerable children among the poor communities. For over 20 years, thousands and thousands of children have passed through our schools. We do struggle with raising finances to provide quality education to our learners. Providing quality education starts with quality of the teaching staff who are qualified to teach. Retaining qualified teachers calls for financing of education. Usually funds given to Governments goes into serving public schools with the exclusion of community schools. We would therefore like to appeal to GPE to consider creating a GPE forum which may work with Grassroots organizations providing access to education among the poor. Your consideration will be greatly appreciated.

In reply to by Rev Peter Kaunda

Hi Rev. Peter Kaunda, thank you for your comment.  GPE promotes a partnership approach to strengthening education systems, with governments in the lead, but involving all education stakeholders, including civil society organizations. We encourage you to reach out to the national civil society coalition for education in your country to ensure your voice can be heard as part of the national dialogue.   Regards. GPE Secretariat

A very useful documentary.

Very interesting, good job, and thanks for sharing such a good blog.

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