When schools are closed, children and youth no longer spend their days with others of their age, nor with teachers that look after them. Learners also miss out on school lunches and healthcare.
Learning the lessons of the Ebola crisis
The Ebola epidemic of 2014 has been described as the most devastating of our time. Its consequences give an impression of what might follow from the coronavirus pandemic. During Ebola, schools in West Africa were closed for 6 to 8 months.
Teenage pregnancies increased in the entire region – for instance, by a staggering 65% in parts of Sierra Leone, according to a UNDP study.
Numerous international studies researched the experiences of children and youth during the Ebola epidemic. Results show a direct connection between school closures and an increase in child labor. Many children told that they had to shoulder a greater responsibility for their family's income due to the epidemic's devastating consequences on people's livelihoods.
This is why we already have to prepare for the children's return to school. It should not be delayed any more than necessary for curbing the spread of the virus. Part of the preparation is to maintain the schools' connection to both learners and teachers during the time schools are closed.
In accordance with response plans and recommendations of governments, Finn Church Aid (FCA) supports children, youth and their families in Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Cambodia, Nepal and Myanmar in coping with school closures and a loss of livelihoods.
This includes distribution of soap, radios, home learning packages, food items and other necessities. Children continue learning with for instance radio lectures. It is more important than ever to increase funding for education to ensure that children do not drop out.
When lectures can resume, low-income countries need additional support from donors and other education sector actors to bring children and youth back to school. Schools need to accelerate curriculums and arrange remedial classes to get learners on track. Teachers must be prepared to give psychosocial support to their learners.