The United Nations Children’s Fund urged governments to reopen schools closed by the coronavirus pandemic as soon as possible, saying that the education of more than 600 million children is at stake.
While acknowledging the difficult choices governments have to make when facing the Covid-19 crisis and the possible spread of the disease, “schools should be the last to close and first to reopen,” UNICEF spokesman James Elder told reporters in Geneva. He called it a “terrible mistake” to reopen bars and pubs before schools.
“Reopening schools cannot wait for all teachers and students to be vaccinated,” he added, calling on governments to protect their education budgets despite the economic hardship caused by the pandemic.
In eastern and southern Africa, an estimated 40 percent of school-age children are currently out of school. Across that region, more than 32 million kids are estimated to be out of school due to pandemic related closures. That is on top of the estimated 37 million children, who were out of school before Covid-19 struck.
In nearly half the countries in Asia and the Pacific, schools have been closed for more than 200 days during the pandemic.
According to Elder, around the world “education, safety, friends and food have been replaced by anxiety, violence and teenage pregnancy.”
The UNICEF has found remote learning to be out of reach for a third of pupils around the world. In Southeast Asia and the Pacific, 80 million children had no access to remote learning while their schools were closed.
Furthermore, a World Bank study said the pandemic will cost this generation of students $10 trillion in lost income.
Given the currently deteriorating situation in the country due to the slow pace of vaccination and the surge caused by the Delta variant, Philippine schools may have to remain closed. However, it is imperative upon our government and education officials to listen to the appeal of the UNICEF and prioritize education with the goal of reopening schools as soon as possible. If that is not yet possible within a reasonable timeframe, every effort must be exerted to offer alternative means of education, along with the necessary support, connectivity and infrastructure.
Giving up on education is not an option, even in the midst of a pandemic. Hopefully our government has its priorities sorted as we navigate our way through this pandemic.*