As nationwide school closures due to COVID-19 outbreak disrupt the education for more than 80 per cent of students worldwide, UNICEF on Thursday announced it will significantly scale up support in all countries to help children continue their learning while keeping schools safe.
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, a statement from UNICEF or United Nations Children's Fund said.
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, the statement added.
"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 Mr Jenkins added.
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:
- Support governments' crisis response plans including technical assistance, rapid risk analysis, data collection, and planning for the reopening of schools.
- 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.
- Ensure continuity of learning and access to remote learning programs including designing and preparing alternative education programmes through online, radio and television.
- Enhance knowledge sharing and capacity building for the current response and future pandemics.
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