UNICEF & UNESCO Seek Action For African Kids Education

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    UNICEF and UNESCO have called for concerted action on learning in the COVID era.

    The two bodies made the call on the International Day of Education
    2022, which was on Tuesday, January 25, 2022.

    In a Joint statement from UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and
    Southern Africa Mohamed Fall, and UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern
    Africa, Prof. Hubert Gijzen, the two bodies appealed to key actors
    responsible for the learning and futures of children living across the
    Eastern and Southern Africa region.

    They said even during the pre-pandemic period, a vast majority of
    African children were experiencing a widespread learning crisis, with
    COVID-19 only serving to exacerbate the situation.

    “With concerted vaccination and treatment efforts, we will defeat this
    pandemic. But the learning loss it has caused will certainly stay with
    us for much longer.”

    “To Governments, school gates must always be the last to close, and
    first to open. By now evidence in all our countries has shown that
    when schools close, children not only lose out on their learning
    progress, but also the safety of the school ground, interactions with
    friends, a route to healthcare, and, too often, their only nutritious
    meal of the day. Many governments across the region have made
    admirable efforts to keep schools safely open via strong Ministry of
    Health and Education collaboration and community partnerships.

    “We equally urge governments to honour their commitments to the Paris
    Declaration to devote at least 4 per cent of GDP, or 15 per cent of
    public spending, to education. Furthermore, we ask you to increase
    social protection for the most vulnerable families as we know that
    when they are adequately supported, their children are more likely to
    return to school.

    “To teachers, we commend you, as some of the most vital frontline
    workers in the COVID era. We call on your employers to allocate
    additional resources to cater for your learners, particularly the most
    vulnerable, and urge you to adjust your teaching methods to the new
    context. We also strongly encourage you to be vaccinated against
    COVID-19 when available.

    “To parents, we underscore that it is in the best interests of your
    children to be in school as safety measures are in place to protect
    them through frequent handwashing, mask wearing, adequate ventilation
    and social distancing.

    “To the children, we urge you to take these precautions at all times
    with an understanding that they serve to protect you and the people
    you care about.

    “To our private sector and development partners, we appeal to you to
    work with us to help overcome this crisis and to ensure that 2022 is
    the year children are supported to catch up on the learning loss they
    have suffered. We urge you to substantially increase funding for
    distance learning modalities, including digital technology and
    innovation, to protect against learning gaps and prepare students for
    future jobs in an increasingly digital world.

    “We each must step up action urgently to play our part if we are to
    overcome this potential catastrophe for children and their education;
    the future of the continent depends on our joint ability to do so.”

    Written by: Thandisizwe Mgudlwa

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