Armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate change induced disasters and protracted crises have disrupted the education of 75 million children and youth globally. And that number is growing in an unprecedented way with the spread of COVID-19. Education has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic with 1.53 billion learners out of school and 184 country-wide school closures, impacting 87.6% of the world’s total enrolled learners. Drop-out rates across the globe are likely to rise as a result of this massive disruption to education access.
Hon. Janet Museveni, the Minister of Education and Sports in Uganda issued an address on 4th April 2020 in a televised conference, following the closure of more that 73,000 schools and institutions of learning after the outbreak, affecting more than 15 million learners and 548,000 teachers.
To ensure education systems respond adequately ,UNESCO recommended that states should adopt a variety of hi-tech, low-tech, and no tech solutions to assure the continuity of learning. In many countries, teachers already use online learning platforms to complement normal contact hour in classroom exercises and research and many students have to technological equipment at home.
However, not all countries, communities, families or social groups have adequate internet access, and many children live in places with frequent government-led internet shutdowns. While other critical needs such as health, water and sanitation are being responded to, educational needs cannot be forgotten and these have an equally detrimental impact if left unaddressed. The ‘pile-on effect’ of the coronavirus is that, during the global COVID-19 pandemic, interruptions to education can have long term implications — especially for the most vulnerable. Governments should adopt measures to mitigate disproportionate effects on children who experience barriers to education, are marginalized for various reasons- including girls, who are being more exposed to health and well-being risks (both psycho-social and physical) during COVID-19, those with disabilities, those affected by location, their family situation and other inequalities. For the most vulnerable children, education is lifesaving. Not only does it provide safety and protection, importantly, it also instills hope for a brighter future.
Governments should also adopt mitigation strategies for example by working with teachers, school officials, teachers’ unions and associations to factor in plans to recover teaching or contact hours lost, adjusting school calendars and exam schedules. Fulfill the right to education even if schools are temporarily closed, Without access to schools, this prime responsibility falls on parents, guardians and caregivers. When schools are closed,government agencies should step in to provide clear accurate public health information.
So continuing education through alternative learning pathways, as soon as possible, must also be a top priority right now, to ensure the interruption to education is as limited as possible.