July 17, 2020

Five things you need to know this week about global education

Aisha, 15, from Ethiopia has been missing her lessons and the school meals

Photo credit: Save the Children / GCCU

Our news roundup includes a dire warning that nearly 10 million children could drop out of school forever because of the pandemic and education budget cuts.

Millions of children may never go back to school

As many as 9.7 million children could be forced out of school forever by the end of this year, a report from Save the Children has warned.

Deep budget cuts to education and rising poverty caused by the pandemic will affect girls much more than boys, with many ending up in early marriage. Children will also be forced out of education and into work.

Save the Children said there will be an estimated $77 billion gap in education spending for the world’s poorest children. That will leave children in 12 countries - including Afghanistan, Chad, Nigeria, Pakistan and Yemen - at extremely high risk of dropping out of school forever. Children in another 28 countries at moderate or high risk of not going back.

In Ethiopia, 15-year-old Aisha said: “Three months ago, things were very good for me. I was enjoying school in grade six. When we were in school, we used to play with our friends and learn. The school also used to provide us with a meal every day. 

"Now after this virus, I can’t go to school and I can’t see my friends. I spend most of my time looking after the livestock and I sometimes help my mother with household chores like cleaning and cooking."

Spotlight on skills for young people

UNESCO has launched a Global Skills Academy that aims to equip one million young people with employability and resilience skills. It will also help them find jobs during the looming recession when youth employment prospects look bleak.

The UN agency unveiled the project for World Youth Skills Day on Wednesday. On the same day, the Global Business Coalition for Education - an initiative of Theirworld - launched a report that highlights how young people need to develop crucial skills to cope with the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic on their education and future work prospects.

Stress management, critical thinking, problem-solving and tenacity will give them the resilience to deal with the shock of Covid-19 and other disruptions to come.

“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on young people’s education and employment, underscoring the skills required to adapt and rebound," said Justin van Fleet, Executive Director of GBC-Education and President of Theirworld. "Through resilience, young people will not just bounce back, they will bounce forward in the new economy.”

11,000 attacks on education in five years

More than 22,000 students, teachers and academics were injured, killed or harmed in attacks on education during armed conflict or insecurity over the past five years.

The chilling statistics are in Education under Attack 2020, a report by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). More than 11,000 separate attacks on education facilities, students and educators took place between 2015 and 2019.

“Pursuing an education is a fundamental right, yet in an increasing number of countries, the lives of students and educators are at risk simply for teaching and learning,” said Diya Nijhowne, executive director of GCPEA. “Schools and universities should be safe havens, not sites of destruction or fear.” 

Attacks on education include bombing and burning schools; killing, wounding or abducting students; and recruiting students and teachers to armed groups.

Angelina Jolie moderates forum on refugee education

More support for refugee education was urged during a discussion involving refugee students and education ministers, which was moderated by actor and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie.

Speakers warned the pandemic risks jeopardising the progress made in education in recent years, especially for young girls. Suggestions were made on how best to provide children with improved learning during and after the pandemic.

The event was co-sponsored by Canada, the United Kingdom and Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the fund for education in emergencies.

"All too often, refugee children and youth – among the most vulnerable people in the world – are left out of Covid-19 responses," said ECW Director Yasmine Sherif (pictured with Jolie).

California children to stay home when schools reopen

While schools reopen across the United States in August, children will stay at home in California's two largest school districts - Los Angeles and San Diego.

The districts, which have a combined 706,000 students and employ 88,000 people, said they would teach only online when school resumes, citing "vague and contradictory" science and government guidelines.

They said countries that have safely reopened schools have done so only after establishing declining infection rates and on-demand coronavirus testing.

Florida and New York, two of the states hardest hit by the crisis, have said students will be allowed to return to school. 

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