GPE’s early support helped 87 countries kick start their response to the pandemic

Thanks to GPE’s early support, 87 countries around the world are now implementing emergency education programs as a response to the Covid-19 crisis’ impact on their education system, benefitting millions of people. Here's what some of those countries are concretely doing.

June 04, 2020 by GPE Secretariat
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4 minutes read
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The ministry of Education staff receives equipment purchased thanks to the GPE grant. Credit: UNICEF Nicaragua
The ministry of Education staff in Nicaragua receives equipment purchased thanks to the GPE grant. 25 technological kits, each made up of a laptop, a projector and speakers, will be distributed to 25 schools that function as teachers training centers for the bimonthly teachers meetings, allowing planning and cross-school training.
UNICEF Nicaragua

On March 25, exactly 2 weeks after the WHO declared the novel coronavirus a pandemic, GPE approved a grant of US$8.8 million to UNICEF to help 87 countries plan their education response to COVID-19.

At that time, 1.5 billion learners around the world were out of school due to school closures. That number is now 1.2 billion as some countries have started to slowly re-open their education systems.

Rapid response to the crisis was not just essential, it could be lifesaving for millions of people. In the education sector, acting quickly meant ensuring that children in developing countries would not lose the benefits of their previous schooling and could continue learning from home. More importantly, it also meant that the most vulnerable children wouldn’t be forgotten.

Previous school closures during the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa have shown that children at home can be more at risk of exploitation and violence, girls are more at risk of being married off too early and becoming pregnant, and many children in poor families are at risk of never returning to school.

Kick-starting the education response

The US$8.8 million grant can seem small in the face of this gargantuan crisis, but the rapidity with which it was made available to the 87 ministries of Education (one week after approval) meant that it contributed to early planning in essential ways. Here is how the countries used the funds:

  • Planning

    Countries like Afghanistan and Eritrea prepared short-term, medium-term, and long-term plans to keep their education systems going during and after the crisis. Resilience to future crises is a common thread in the plans.

  • Collaboration and cooperation

    The ministries in Laos and Tajikistan used the funds to organize discussions with their partners and ensure alignment and coordination of the various actors in their response.

  • Increase ministries’ capacity

    In Haiti, Nicaragua and Togo, the funds helped provide computer equipment to ministry staff to ensure they could work from home efficiently. The funds also supported the crisis management units in some ministries.

  • Train teachers in distance learning

    In the Maldives, the grant was used to prepare teachers in the pedagogy and techniques to teach their students remotely, and identify efficient ways to keep in touch with them.

  • Produce and disseminate lessons

    Many countries had never had to plan for distance learning prior to the crisis; thus many of them used the funding to start developing lessons in various subjects that could be broadcast on the radio, TV, via social media channels and on online platforms. Cote d’Ivoire for example quickly produced a new distance learning program called "Mon école à maison" (My school at home) for radio and TV. Cambodia produced 15 radio episodes for preschoolers and 35 radio programs for multilingual education, covering storytelling, math and language development. Sudan focused on producing lessons for Grades 8 and 11 in preparation for the final exams for these students.

  • Distribute distance learning equipment to vulnerable children

    In Liberia, Morocco and 4 islands in the Eastern Caribbean (Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines), children in remote areas or from poor families wouldn’t have been able to access the distance learning programs were it not for radio sets or tablets distributed to them.

  • Launch information campaigns

    Cabo Verde used the funds to produce a video promoting distance learning via radio and TV. Tajikistan launched school-based communication and safety campaigns. Indonesia developed guidelines on safe school operations.

  • Mobilize additional funding

    The COVID-19 response plan by Tajikistan included a detailed budget for additional education interventions, which were the basis for a EUR9 million investment from the European Union.

  • Provide psychosocial support to students and teachers

    The COVID-19 crisis can be experienced by many, especially the younger ones, as a trauma. In Nigeria, the grant was used, among other things, to provide psychological support to both teachers and students and help them through these difficult moments.

  • Produce print learning materials

    Sometimes, printed materials are still the most effective way to help children continue learning, especially in earlier grades, and ensure their parents can also help out at home. That’s why Nepal used the funds to produce and distribute self-learning packets for Grades 0 to 3. Zimbabwe printed children’s story books. The Democratic Republic of Congo produced exercise books for preschool, primary and secondary schools.

  • Ensure children with disabilities are not forgotten

    Ukraine used the funds to provide individual education kits and learning supplies to vulnerable preschool children, including children with disabilities. The Kyrgyz Republic developed online learning platforms and contents in local languages for all children, including children with disabilities. Cambodia used the fund to translate 26 Grade 9 and Grade 12 video lessons in sign language.

  • Prepare for the safe reopening of schools

    Nigeria used the funds to prepare a back-to-school campaign, ensuring schools have access to the necessary handwashing stations to prevent a resurgence of the virus. The Gambia equipped its schools with hygiene packages.

The initial grant through UNICEF, together with US$500 million in accelerated funding to help countries implement their response plans, are helping children in developing countries continue to learn while schools are closed. The support will also help them go back to school as soon as it is safe to do so.

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