KABUL (Pajhwok): UN’s children body UNICEF on Tuesday said closing schools was a wrong response to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, saying 7.5 million children in Afghanistan missed out on schooling during the lockdown.
In a statement, the UN body said the number of schoolchildren affected by COVID-19-related school closures soared by 38 percent in November, placing significant strain on the learning progress and well-being of an additional 90 million students globally.
The UNICEF said, “When schools close, children risk losing their learning, support system, food and safety, with the most marginalised children – who are the most likely to drop out altogether – paying the heaviest price”.
The UN body said that countries were not taking the necessary steps to make schools safe from COVID-19, instead were closing schools unnecessarily.
“Evidence shows that schools are not the main drivers of this pandemic. Yet, we are seeing an alarming trend whereby governments are once again closing down schools as a first recourse rather than a last resort”, Robert Jenkins, UNICEF Global Chief of Education, said in a statement.
The UNICEF highlighted a global study by “Insights for Education” which also said that there was no correlation observed between reopening of schools and infection levels.
UNICEF urged governments to prioritize reopening schools and take all actions possible to make them as safe as possible.
School re-opening plans must include expanding access to education, including remote learning, especially for marginalized groups. Education systems must also be adapted and built to withstand future crises.
UNICEF’s Framework for Reopening Schools, issued jointly with UNESCO, UNHCR, WFP and the World Bank, offers practical advice for national and local authorities. The guidelines focus on policy reform; financing requirements; safe operations; compensatory learning; wellness and protection and reaching the most marginalized children.
“What we have learned about schooling during the time of COVID is clear: the benefits of keeping schools open far outweigh the costs of closing them, and nationwide closures of schools should be avoided at all costs,” said Jenkins.