Education crisis affects the most underprivileged children
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing extreme disruption worldwide to all essential sectors, including education. On 8 April, UNESCO reported schools are closed in 188 countries meaning almost 1.6 billion children and young people cannot attend school. For developing countries, the consequences of this global education crisis are disastrous.
In the countries where Edukans is actively working to improve education, all children are at home. Very few children have access to distance learning. In the slums and rural areas, a smartphone is a rarity, computers and tablets a dream. Countless parents, who often have to work hard as unskilled day labourers or small farmers for an insecure daily income, lack the knowledge and skills to support their children at home. Many parents are caught in a constant dilemma: do I stay home to take care of my children or do I leave them alone to earn money for food for our family? For most children and young people, the corona crisis means that their learning is at a standstill. And this, whilst for them education is vital, and that is especially true now. School is about more than learning to read and write. It is where children learn how to stay healthy and that it is okay to stand up for themselves. It is a safe place where children can be children and where they make friends. For many young adults, education offers the only chance of an income. Various sectors which offered learn-work apprenticeships have closed, which means many young people cannot continue with their vocational training and earn nothing.
Vulnerable children are at greatest risk
Edukans and its partners are very concerned about the most vulnerable children, who are now at home in a disrupted situation and may be at great risk. The COVID-19 crisis is causing increasing poverty and a precarious food situation. Production is declining and everything is becoming more expensive. Hunger is lurking and tensions are rising. Children are put to work in order to continue providing food for the family. The position of girls is getting ever weaker, with the very real threat of domestic violence, abuse and exploitation, teenage pregnancies and early marriage. For refugee children in the reception camps, displacement and traumatic experiences exacerbate the situation. And they are now facing additional risks: social distancing is impossible in the overcrowded camps. In all countries the food programmes at school, often the only meal of the day for many children, have come to a standstill. Normally the strong community structures provide aid in case of calamities, but now there is nothing more to (re)distribute. Edukans is also concerned about what will happen after the immediate crisis ends, because the risks that these children are facing now mean many will not return to school in the future. That is why we are doing everything we can to reach out to parents and children, even during this crisis.
Back to school
Our main goal: to ensure that the 251,014 children and 6,986 young people we are currently involved with remain safe and healthy and return to school after the crisis, with as little learning deficit as possible. We are working closely with our partners, collaborating with other education and development organisations and maintaining contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Edukans’ crisis programme focuses on three pillars:
- For the duration of the current situation, provide guidance to parents. We are providing guidance to parents as to how they can best help their child, now that he or she is at home all day. How do you provide structure? How do you help your child with his/her homework? How do you stay healthy? How do you keep your child active? In Ghana we are reaching out to families over the radio and with short text messages in the local language.
- Make sure every child goes back to school after the crisis. With a Back to School campaign we are seeking to convince parents to send their child back to school. Poor families will have exhausted their financial means and have nothing left to meet the costs of sending their children to school. That is why we will attempt to cover some of the costs: of food, teaching materials and transport, for example. We are developing adapted teaching programmes so that the learning arrears can be caught up once the children are back at school. And we are equipping schools for the new situation by providing access to clean drinking water and soap.
- Provide socio-emotional support to teachers and pupils. Children are greatly affected by everything they are going through and teachers are understandably fearful as well. Returning to ‘normal’ will not be easy. We will be training teachers to recognise stress in children and to use teaching packages for socio-emotional learning. We provide training for dealing with trauma and the emotions that teachers and pupils are experiencing. In this way, children and teachers can return to a stable situation as quickly as possible.
Children in developing countries cannot go to school because of the corona crisis. Their learning is at a standstill. Hundreds of thousands of children and adolescents are at risk of not returning to school after this crisis ends. Their future is at stake. We desperately need your help. Together we can provide guidance to parents, keep children healthy, and ensure their school is a safe place to return to.
 Numbers may vary by day, but as of 8/4/2020: “1,576,021,818 affected learners, 188 country-wide closures”. These numbers are for pre-school to tertiary education.