UNICEF calls for reopening of schools in pandemic-hit countries

FILE PHOTO: Filipino teachers build learning centre on wheels to assist indigenous children
FILE PHOTO: Filipino teachers build learning center on wheels to help indigenous children
FILE PHOTO: Reza Delos Santos, 10, a seventh grade student, works on her module at home as her cousin is seen at the temporary rickshaw distance learning center for the Etah community in Porac, Pampanga, Philippines October 12, 2020 After one session. Reuters/Eloisa Lopez

September 16, 2021

MANILA (Reuters) – UN children’s agency UNICEF has urged education officials to reopen schools in countries where millions of students are still not allowed to return to classes in 18 months, because COVID-19 is a pandemic.

According to a report released by UNICEF on Thursday, schools are completely closed in about 17 countries, while schools are partially closed in 39 countries.

Those “almost completely closed” schools typically include about 77 million students in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Panama and Kuwait.

Nearly a third of that figure is from the Philippines, which is fighting one of Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks and where a new school year began this week.

UNICEF said students from six countries represent more than half of the 131 million students worldwide who have missed more than three-quarters of their individual learning.

“The education crisis is still here, and with every passing day classrooms darken, the devastation worsens,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

The report said teachers should be given priority for COVID-19 vaccines, followed by health workers and those most at risk, to protect them from community transmission.

Students may be safe at home, but the availability of computers, mobile phones and the Internet, and the uneven quality of education, are among the challenges they continue to face.

In the Philippines, some children have been forced to climb on roofs just to get an internet signal.

In June, President Rodrigo Duterte rejected a proposal to allow face-to-face classes to resume in some areas, saying: “I can’t gamble on children’s health.”

In a report released in April, the Asian Development Bank estimated that school closures lasting more than a year could reduce future earnings among students in the region by $1.25 trillion, or the equivalent of 5.4% of GDP in 2020. can.

UNICEF and its allies will shut down their digital channels for 18 hours on Thursday to draw attention to the crisis and “18 months of lost education”.

“This is a crisis we will not allow the world to ignore,” said UNICEF’s Four. “Our channels are silent, but our message is loud: Every community, everywhere must reopen schools as soon as possible.”

(Reporting by Enrico Della Cruz; Editing by Ed Davis)

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