The Upside n. 6: Education endures

26 Jun 2020

The COVID-19 shutdowns have resulted in millions of children being out of school. School closures are likely to prove more than an interruption in the schooling of many girls and boys, putting an end to their education forever.

According to UNESCO, the COVID-19 shutdowns have resulted in millions of children being out of school - approximately 1.8 billion worldwide in mid-April.

Many of them aren’t just missing out on learning and academic opportunities. They’re also missing midday school meals, a critical supplement for families in low-income countries in particular, where food averages 60% of household expenditure. With families plunging into malnutrition and poverty, school closures are likely to prove more than an interruption in the schooling of many girls and boys, putting an end to their education forever.

A number of our partner organisations have moved fast to fill the gaps, taking action beyond their usual operations to provide humanitarian relief for the most vulnerable.

Others are turning to distance learning options, using channels that don’t depend on Internet connectivity, which is largely unavailable in the areas they serve.

Educate Girls, which works in India to boost girls’ school enrolment and attendance, is undertaking the critical distribution of ration kits to 1,517 extremely marginalized villages in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, reaching approximately 42,000 households. The kits include wheat flour, salt, sugar, soya beans, dal, masala and soap.

“By trying to mitigate the risk of families falling into extreme poverty we hope to help mitigate the risk of those families keeping their children, especially their girls, out of school once they reopen.”

Educate Girls’ founder Safeena Husain said recently to Devex

Luminos Fund, an organisation we fund in Ethiopia that runs an accelerated learning programme in normal times, has focused on readying itself to support students’ when schools reopen, aiming to help them catch up and continue on the path to opportunity. Luminos was founded with a mandate to bring learning to the last 10% of children still denied an education globally. Today, with nearly nine in ten children out of school, Luminos’ mission to help vulnerable children catch up on learning is more important than ever. Their team is therefore also pivoting to support students’ home learning during the school closures, disseminating content via SMS, distributing important information about COVID and providing relief for staff and families.

Room to Read, which we support in Bangladesh and Cambodia to help girls complete secondary school and become leaders of their own lives, is providing distance learning programmes via telephone, radio and TV broadcasts, while also distributing hard copies of its materials to communities without digital access.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stress test for education systems all over the world. In rising to the challenge, educators have created an opportunity to share lessons globally that could help navigate the uncertain waters that lie ahead and are likely to affect students unequally depending on where they live.

Check out the other articles the series The Upside :