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UNICEF support for education as COVID-19 forces schools worldwide to close

Innocenti to investigate alternative learning models and resilient education systems
26 Mar 2020

Twin 7 year old girls in Skopje, North Macedonia, with books and pencils spread out across the table as they follow the TV-classroom programme broadcast on national television. 

NEW YORK, 26 March 2020 – As nationwide school closures disrupt education for more than 80 per cent of students worldwide, UNICEF today 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.

UNICEF Innocenti is also currently examining the swiftly changing landscape and generating evidence to inform Government response to the crisis in the short-term and to support resilience of education systems for the medium/long term.

“It is more crucial than never to generate robust evidence on the best alternative learning models to better understand the impact of school closure and how to build more resilient education systems for the future of all children, in particular the most vulnerable,”  said Matt Brossard, UNICEF Innocenti's Chief of Education.

Iraqi children take their lessons remotely in Baghdad on 25 March 2020, amidst a lockdown to fight the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

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 – nearly $9 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.

Global Partnership for Education announces US $8.8 million in funding to help UNICEF with COVID-19 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:

  1. Support governments’ crisis response plans including technical assistance, rapid risk analysis, data collection, and planning for the reopening of schools.
  2. 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.
  3. Ensure continuity of learning and access to remote learning programs including designing and preparing alternative education programmes through online, radio and television. 
  4. Enhance knowledge sharing and capacity building for the current response and future pandemics.

UNICEF Innocenti is gearing up its effort to generate evidence and analysis on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children. New research projects on economic impacts, protection of children from abuse and violence, gender, mental health are now getting underway.