COVID-19 forces majority of schools worldwide to close
- UNICEF to significantly scale up support in all countries to keep children learning
- Based on previous learnings, the longer children stay away from school, the less likely they are to return, meaning it is crucial to continue remote learning and establish routine
- In 145 countries, UNICEF will:
- Support government crisis response plans
- Provide equipment to schools and circulate information and guidance
- Train teachers and caregivers
- Ensure access to remote learning programmes through tv, radio and online.
- Make education experts available to speak about the new plans to support global learning for children.
As nationwide school closures disrupt the education for more than 80 per cent of students worldwide, UNICEF has announced it will significantly scale up support in all countries to help children continue their learning while keeping schools safe.
“Schools in the majority of countries worldwide have closed. It is an unprecedented situation and unless we collectively act now to protect children’s education, societies and economies will feel the burden long after we’ve beaten COVID-19. In the most vulnerable communities, the impact will span generations,” said Robert Jenkins, UNICEF Global Chief of Education.
“Based on lessons learned with the school closures in response to Ebola, the longer children stay away from school, the less likely they are to ever return. Giving children alternative ways to learn and also by doing so, rebuild a routine is a critical part of our response,” said Jenkins.
To help curb the disruption to children’s education and keep children learning safely, UNICEF has allocated additional funding to accelerate work with governments and partners in more than 145 low- and middle-income countries. The initial global allocation of US $13 million (GBP £10 million) – nearly $9 million (GBP £7 million) of which is from a contribution made by the Global Partnership for Education – will be catalytic by supporting national governments and a wide range of education partners in each country to develop plans to enable a rapid, system-wide response.
The initiative will enable countries to prepare alternative learning programmes in the case of school closures and help schools keep children and their communities safe by providing vital information on handwashing and other hygiene practices. The funds will also help support children’s mental health and prevent stigma and discrimination by encouraging students to avoid stereotypes when talking about the virus.
In all 145 countries, UNICEF will work with partners to:
- Support governments’ crisis response plans including technical assistance, rapid risk analysis, data collection, and planning for the reopening of schools.
- Support the planning and implementation of safe school operation and risk communication including translating, printing, disseminating and implementing safe school guidelines; equipping schools with hygiene packages and circulating critical information on disease prevention; and training teachers and caregivers in psychosocial and mental health support for themselves and students.
- Ensure continuity of learning and access to remote learning programs including designing and preparing alternative education programmes through online, radio and television.
- Enhance knowledge sharing and capacity building for the current response and future pandemics.
Earlier this month, UNICEF, along with the World Health Organization and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, released operational guidance on protecting children and schools from COVID-19.
In order to support parents in continuing their children’s education during this period of uncertainty, UNICEF is providing five simple tips:
1) Plan a routine together. Try to establish a routine that factors in age-appropriate education programmes that can be followed online, on the television or through the radio. Also, factor in play time and time for reading. Use everyday activities as learning opportunities for your children. And don’t forget to come up with these plans together where possible.
Although establishing a routine and structure is critically important for children and young people, in these times you may notice your children need some level of flexibility. Switch up your activities. If your child is seeming restless and agitated when you’re trying to follow an online learning programme with them, flip to a more active option. Do not forget that planning and doing house chores together safely is great for development of fine and gross motor functions. Try and stay as attuned to their needs as possible.
2) Have open conversations. Encourage your children to ask questions and express their feelings with you. Remember that your child may have different reactions to stress, be patient and understanding. Start by inviting your child to talk about the issue. Find out how much they already know and follow their lead. Discuss good hygiene practices. You can use everyday moments to reinforce the importance of things like regular and thorough handwashing. Make sure you are in a safe environment and allow your child to talk freely. Drawing, stories and other activities may help to open a discussion.
Try not to minimize or avoid their concerns. Be sure to acknowledge their feelings and assure them that it’s natural to feel scared about these things. Demonstrate that you’re listening by giving them your full attention, and make sure they understand that they can talk to you and their teachers whenever they like. Warn them about fake news and encourage them – and remind yourselves – to use trusted sources of information such as UNICEF guidance.
3) Take your time. Start with shorter learning sessions and make them progressively longer. If the goal is to have a 30- or 45-minute session, start with 10 minutes and build up from there. Within a session, combine online or screen time with offline activities or exercises.
4) Protect children online. Digital platforms provide an opportunity for children to keep learning, take part in play and keep in touch with their friends. But increased access online brings heightened risks for children’s safety, protection and privacy. Discuss the internet with your children so that they know how it works, what they need to be aware of and what appropriate behavior looks like on the platforms they use, such as video calls. Establish rules together about how, when and where the internet can be used. Set up parental controls on their devices to mitigate online risks, particularly for younger children.
Identify appropriate online tools for recreation together – organizations like Common Sense Media offer advice for age-appropriate apps, games and other online entertainment. In case of cyberbullying or an incident of inappropriate content online, be familiar with school and other local reporting mechanisms, keeping numbers of support helplines and hotlines handy. Don’t forget that there is no need for children or young people to share pictures of themselves or other personal information to access digital learning.
5) Stay in touch with your children’s education facility. Find out how to stay in touch with your children’s teacher or school to stay informed, ask questions and get more guidance. Parent groups or community groups can also be a good way to support each other with your home schooling.
Best of luck with it all and please visit https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/covid-19 for the latest information on coronavirus, and how to protect yourselves and your children during this challenging time.
UNICEF is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
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