by STAFF WRITER
January 24, 2022
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jan 24, CMC –The Caribbean has joined the global community in observing International Day of Education on Monday with a senior United Nations officials urging countries worldwide to prioritize the re-opening of schools in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has killed and infected millions of people worldwide.
The UN has said that the pandemic, which was first discovered in China two years ago, has had a devastating effect on education, laying bare a crisis that was already causing widespread concern well before the spread of the virus.
Former director of General Education of the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, in Suriname, Yuro Dipotaroeno,, said COVID-19 will remain, albeit in a milder form, but education must not perish because of it.
“We cannot just pick up the thread again as if nothing had happened. However, an important first step is that we all need to be aware of the consequences of our choices. Only when that awareness is there can we communicate openly and honestly with each other about how best to act in this difficult situation,” the director of Vanguard Community College, told the De Ware Tijd newspaper.
“Ultimately we will have to do it together with the important common goal is the development of our children,” he added.
Director of Education at the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, Robert Jenkins, is calling for a transformation in learning, amid warnings that the current system is failing millions of people.
Jenkins told UN News that it is important to “remind ourselves that we still have a crisis in terms of the scale of the school closures and partial school closures.
“More than 635 million students remain affected by either full or partial school closures at the moment, so in no means are we out of this, in terms of the conversation around the importance of reopening schools.
“We are very concerned, as more and more data is emerging, of the disproportionate impact school closures have had, in terms of learning loss, on marginalized children.”
He said before the pandemic, 53 per cent of 10-year-olds living in low and middle-income countries were not sufficiently or effectively reading, and did not meet the minimum standards of foundational literacy and numeracy. That is estimated to be going up to 70 per cent.
“That’s 70 per cent of 10-year-olds being unable to read or understand a simple text, and children living in countries with poor learning outcomes prior to the pandemic have tended to also have had their schools closed for the longest.”
He said the marginalized also had less access to remote learning, because they were either less likely to be living in an area in which remote learning was offered, or didn’t have access to a device, or to radio or television.
Jenkins said closing schools has had a profound impact on children and that apart from the learning loss, there are also psychosocial, health, physical and nutritional needs.
He said school children no longer have access to midday meals or other support they received at school.
“Evidence so far indicates that in-person schooling does not appear to be the main driver of community transmission of COVID-19, and risk mitigation measures in schools have proven to be very effective.
“Good initiatives include improving ventilation, encouraging physical separation, social distancing, mask wearing in certain contexts, and hand washing. Risk mitigation measures work, and in many cases are showing that indeed schools are the safest places for children.
“What’s critical is engagement. There needs to be effective communication with parents. There needs to be a dialogue, and evidence needs to be shared. Teachers need to receive support so that they can effectively reopen and help children, and practice effective risk mitigation measures within schools
Jenkins said while he has seen some encouraging examples of countries introducing innovations, which are being brought into the school system, there are many other examples of countries adopting blended learning and digital learning approaches, with support for marginalized children while schools were closed.
“Unfortunately, these examples of transformation, and at-scale change that was overdue prior to the crisis, are not happening everywhere, and it would be a huge, missed opportunity if schools reopen and we return back to exactly where we were two years ago, but with children now even further behind.,” he added.