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UNICEF and WHO jointly organized Ending Violence Against Children During COVID-19 and Beyond: Second Regional Conference to Strengthen Implementation of the INSPIRE Strategies, held virtually on 1–5 November 2021. The Conference comes under the umbrella of the 2021 Solutions Summit series of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children (GPEVAC). Over 1700 delegates gathered for the Conference virtually, representing governments (including from the health, social welfare, education and justice sectors), youth groups, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the United Nations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), international NGOs, faith-based organizations and religious leaders, academic institutions, private sector and development partners, as well as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children. The purpose of the Conference was to identify actions needed to ensure effective prevention and response to VAC during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery, utilizing the strategies outlined in INSPIRE: Seven strategies for ending violence against children.
We are in a learning crisis. To give young people the best chance to succeed, we need to support them holistically. The first step is to identify where children and youth are in building the range of skills they need, monitor progress in their development and ensure no child or young person is left behind. The Recovering Learning report published jointly by UNICEF and the Education Commission, and supported by Generation Unlimited, contributes to these efforts by providing a comprehensive view of skills attainment among children and youth. The report highlights the need to improve tracking progress in skills development, especially in light of the global priority to recover education in response to COVID-related disruptions. To succeed in the global commitment to support the holistic development of children and young people, we need better and more inclusive data to recover and reimagine our education system RAPID-ly. We also need to mobilize increased and improved investment in education to finance transformation, including through innovative instruments.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted education for approximately 1.2 billion students across the Asia-Pacific, and forced the closure of many schools, precipitating a transition towards remote learning, albeit with uneven access and quality, and threatening to deepen the ‘learning crisis’ that already existed, particularly for the most vulnerable learners. As education systems in the Asia-Pacific seek to recover the learning loss due to the pandemic and address the broader learning crisis, it is incumbent on governments to identify appropriate recovery strategies in the short term. Also, governments need to support education system transformation so that all learners reach minimum proficiency in numeracy and literacy and acquire competencies needed to fulfil their potential –personal, social and economic. Learning recovery strategies will differ across the region, not the least because schools were fully or partially closed1for different lengths of time -for example, India (82 weeks), Indonesia (77 weeks), and Bangladesh (73 weeks). Other countries saw shorter closures, such as: Vanuatu (4 weeks), Papua New Guinea (6 weeks), and the Solomon Islands (7 weeks).
Teachers are the most important actors in improving students’ learning outcomes and thus in addressing a learning crisis in the region. Moreover, the unprecedented and extensive school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have affected about 43 million teachers in school education in the Asia-Pacific region. These teachers were at risk of losing their jobs due to budget cuts, they had to address the new challenge of teaching remotely, as well as worrying about their own and their families’ health and well-being. Throughout the school closures, teachers continued to teach under extremely fluid and trying conditions: increased workloads, having to use new and unfamiliar technologies without adequate training, experiencing a lack of materials for online instruction, high levels of physical and mental stress, and insufficient support.
In the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in Latin America and the Caribbean. The region has suffered a triple curse, as it faced the largest combined impact in health, economic and educational terms. The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on people´s lives, livelihoods, and human capital formation represents, without doubt, one of the worst crises in LAC’s history. As we seek to rebuild better and foster more inclusive and sustainable growth, the main concern, nonetheless, is not the heavy toll of the pandemic, but the future of an entire generation of children and young people who have endured this massive shock. This report is the first evidence-based assessment of this educational catastrophe in Latin America and the Caribbean. The report intends to systematically document the impact that COVID-19 has had on the region’s education sector two years after. The 24 months since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020 is described sequentially, focusing firstly on the features of the “triple curse”, and then on the direct impact on schooling, learning and skills development. The report also addresses significant cross-sectoral impacts, namely those related to digital and transferable skills.
Shoshanna Fine; Michelle Martinez
Adolescence is a particularly sensitive period for the emergence of mental health conditions. Indeed, it is estimated that more than 13 per cent of adolescents globally live with a mental disorder, and many more experience significant psychosocial distress that does not rise to the level of a diagnosable disorder. The most widespread of these mental health conditions include symptoms of anxiety and depression, with rates increasing dramatically throughout adolescence, particularly among girls. Other prevalent challenges include drug and alcohol abuse, conduct disorders, eating disorders and suicidal behaviours. Taken together, approximately 75 per cent of lifetime mental health conditions manifest by age 24. To better understand mental health issues and concerns from the voices of adolescents, 71 focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted by 14 partner organizations in 13 countries: Belgium (francophone and Flemish), Chile, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Malawi, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States of America. The countries were selected to ensure geographic, economic and cultural diversity. This report summarizes the results of these FGDs with qualitative research coordinated, analysed and drafted by the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Global Early Adolescent Study (GEAS) in collaboration with global partners and as part of UNICEF’s flagship report, The State of the World’s Children 2021: On My Mind – Promoting, protecting and caring for children’s mental health.
Marco Valenza; Thomas Dreesen
Learning remains largely out of reach for many of the most vulnerable children around the world. In low- and middle-income countries, an estimated 56% of children cannot read a simple text by the age of 10. This share is projected to rise to 70% after the pandemic. The school closures imposed by the COVID-19 outbreak, coupled with an enduring tendency in low-income countries to allocate a limited share of the national education budget to the most vulnerable, are further widening inequalities in the global learning crisis landscape. The Let Us Learn (LUL) initiative implements innovative education programmes to improve learning for the most vulnerable children in five countries with high levels of out-of-school children: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal. This report documents the outcomes, lessons learned and recommendations based on the experience of the initiative across four types of learning programmes spanning the education lifecycle: (1) pre-primary education; (2) accelerated learning pathways; (3) programmes to reduce barriers to access and stay in formal school; and (4) vocational training.
When schools started closing their doors due to COVID-19, countries in Europe and Central Asia quickly provided alternative learning solutions for children to continue learning. More than 90 per cent of countries offered digital solutions to ensure that education activities could continue. However, lack of access to digital devices and a reliable internet connection excluded a significant amount of already marginalized children and threatened to widen the existing learning disparities. This report builds on existing evidence highlighting key lessons learned during the pandemic to promote learning for all during school closure and provides actionable policy recommendations on how to bridge the digital divide and build resilient education systems in Europe and Central Asia.
Rafael Pontuschka; Sophia Kan; Thomas Dreesen
This research explored the specific impacts of the pandemic on exposure to gender based violence risks among refugee and migrant girls and women in Italy. The research focused on refugee and migrant girls and women because of the intersectionality of vulnerabilities related to their gender and their migration status. It examined the availability and accessibility of gender based violence service provision over the course of the pandemic, and explored how services adapted in the face of this health emergency.
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