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