AFD and UNICEF partners have contributed to this blog post.
By the spring of 2020, Niger was the Sahelian country most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. By March 28, the government had decided to suspend classes in all schools across the country to limit the spread of the virus.
Like other countries, Niger was grappling with an unprecedented situation. Overnight, more than 3.7 million students at all levels and more than 80,000 teachers found themselves forced to stay home. This situation increased the risk of school dropout and exacerbated the many other challenges that children, especially the most vulnerable (those living in rural areas, girls, and refugee and internally displaced children), already faced.
For many of Niger’s schoolchildren, remote learning during the worst periods of the pandemic was not an option. Some materials were distributed, but the country was not prepared for large-scale remote learning. Alternative solutions, such as radio programs, were not developed in time to reach large numbers of children. Only a minority have been able to stay linked to their schools through digital technology. The majority, who live in rural areas, have not been able to continue their studies.
How could all students continue learning from their homes? How could curricula be adapted to the special requirements of remote learning? And how could the education system be made more resilient and better prepared for a smooth return to normalcy once the pandemic was over?
The closure of schools in Niger has had a negative impact on children’s education and well-being, particularly among girls in marginalized communities, who have paid the highest price.
“Those were difficult months, I remember. With everything I was seeing on television, I was afraid to leave the house”, says Soraya.
Soraya, 10, lives with her seven siblings and their parents in a two-bedroom house in Niamey, the capital of Niger. Soraya’s parents are hard-pressed to feed their children breakfast and lunch and buy them school supplies.