Preparing for safe return to school for all

With millions of children around the world at risk of being left behind in COVID-19 education response plans, we need to work on mitigating its long-lasting impact on children’s learning and wellbeing, especially for the most vulnerable. Here are some of the actions we can take.

June 05, 2020 by Birgitte Lange, Save the Children Norway
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3 minutes read
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A student listens with attention during instruction.
A student listens with attention during instruction. Hidassie School. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. November 2013.
GPE/Midastouch

As the coronavirus pandemic threatens to overwhelm public health systems, and puts societies and economies into turmoil, our job is to mitigate a long-lasting impact on children’s learning and wellbeing, especially for the most vulnerable.

What children ask for

When I travel to countries where we work, I am met with one constant message from children themselves: their wish and demand for education.

Time after time, children living in the world’s toughest places say they want one thing above all else: the chance to go to school. School is a place to learn, but also so much more; a place to meet friends, eat a well-balanced meal, have a break from life at home, a safe space.

Yet millions of children around the world, are at risk of being left behind in COVID-19 education response plans. Those already left behind face the greatest risk.

In a series of videos, children living in the West Bank and Gaza shared their advice on how to stay safe and learn during the lockdown. In the occupied Palestinian territory, 1.43 million children require remote learning, yet 60,000 do not have internet and require alternative learning materials.

 

 

In Nigeria, 46 million students are affected by school closures, and 400,000 internally displaced children attend learning in camps and host communities.

Children such as 11 year old Mayowa from Lagos, call for alternative learning approaches. Just 38% of the population in Nigeria has mobile broadband connection.

 

A practical guide to get children safely back to school

We must listen to children’s concerns and find innovative approaches in order to ensure that children like Mayowa can access safe, inclusive learning opportunities.

Already, we are seeing efforts to facilitate continued learning, such as the delivery of awareness sessions to promote home-led learning in Cox’s Bazar refugee camp, multi-language radio adaptations of Save the Children’s existing education programs in Uganda, or the use of TV channels to reach 8 million children with lessons in Ethiopia.

Coordination and joint efforts are more important now than ever. I am proud that Save the Children is one of the partners behind this inter-agency multi-sectoral guidance for an integrated, participatory process for safe school reopening in all contexts across the humanitarian-development nexus. It is crucial for children and their futures that this planning starts as soon as possible.

Emerging stronger

A response to the crisis that protects children’s right to education will both alleviate harm in the near term, and prevent children, particularly girls and those from low-income households, from dropping out of school permanently. An estimated 10 million more girls will be out of school after the crisis.

In the emergency response, we must not lose sight of the need to support efforts to develop sustainable and inclusive education systems, such as through the Global Partnership for Education.

Our actions now will shape children’s futures. In order to deliver on the promises of the Sustainable Development Goals - and if we are to emerge stronger from this crisis, we must ensure that the short- and long-term response to COVID-19 places children’s calls for quality education front and centre. That is why Save the Children has just launched a global campaign that joins children worldwide in saying #SaveOurEducation.

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