July 24, 2020

Five things you need to know this week about global education

Patience, an early childhood education coordinator in Mamfe, Ghana, hosts children who do not have television at home for lessons. UNICEF has been supporting the design of distance learning programmes

Photo credit: UNICEF Ghana

Our roundup includes the pandemic's effect on early years education for 40 million children and how Afghan schoolgirls have designed a low-cost ventilator.

Pandemic forces 40m young children out of education

COVID-19 is preventing young children from getting their education off to the best possible start

Photo credit: UNICEF / Sokol

The pandemic has resulted in at least 40 million children missing out on early childhood education in their critical preschool year, according to new United Nations research. Nearly 22 million of them are in South Asia.

UNICEF said the closure of childcare and early education facilities worldwide has left many parents struggling to balance childcare and paid employment.

“Education disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are preventing children from getting their education off to the best possible start,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. 

“Childcare and early childhood education build a foundation upon which every aspect of children’s development relies. The pandemic is putting that foundation under serious threat.”

Theirworld believes every child deserves the best start in life, which includes a healthy birth and quality and inclusive early childhood education. We have campaigned for countries and donors to ensure 10% of education spending goes on providing free, quality pre-primary education to every child.

But the UNICEF research brief Childcare in a Global Crisis shows that of of 166 countries covered, less than half provide tuition-free pre-primary programmes of at least one year. That drops to just 15% among low-income countries.

Many young children who remain at home do not get the play and early learning support they need for healthy development. More than 35 million children under the age of five are sometimes left without adult supervision, says the research.

In another Covid-19 development this week, South Africa announced public schools will close for a four-week break, with some exceptions, as confirmed cases in the country rose over 400,000.

Afghan schoolgirls design low-cost ventilator

The Afghan Robotics Team when they made headlines in 2017

Photo credit: FIRST Global

The all-female Afghan Robotics Team, whose teenage schoolgirl members have won international awards, has designed a low-cost ventilator.

It took four months to finalise the design, with guidance from experts at Harvard University. The device is easy to carry, can run on battery power for 10 hours and costs roughly $700 to produce, compared with the $20,000 price of a traditional ventilator.

It still has to undergo final testing from health authorities  but officials have welcomed it in a country trying to combat with pandemic with only 800 ventilators.

"We are delighted that we were able to take our first step in the field of medicine and to be able to serve the people in this area as well. All members of our team feel happy because after months of hard work we were able to achieve this result,” said 18-year-old high school student Somaya Faruqi.

The robotics team from Harat province first made headlines in 2017 when they had US visas denied but after an outcry were allowed to take part in a global competition.

Lesson woes of children with disabilities

Many children will fall behind in learning due to their inability to access distance learning methods at home

Photo credit: UN Photo

Almost half of Indian children with disabilities are planning to stop online studies during the health crisis because of difficulties in accessing education.

A survey by the community organisation Swabhiman found that 43% of students say they will drop out of lessons. Among the challenges they face are no sign language interpreters or scribes, lack of technology skills and not having suitable digital equipment.

Swabhiman founder Sruti Mohapatra said: "The pandemic has the potential of leaving students with disabilities behind. If adequate measures are not taken urgently, they are likely to suffer irrecoverable losses in their quest for education and a life of dignity."

Another report - this time from Forbes India - said the cause of girls' education in the country could be put by back by several decades because of the health crisis.

ECW's new funding in 10 crisis countries

Education Cannot Wait has announced an additional $19 million in emergency response funding to the pandemic across 10 crisis-affected countries. It takes ECW's total response to $43.5 million of funding in 33 countries and crisis-affected contexts.

“The time has come for decisive and game-changing measures to ensure that every refugee child accesses a quality education. Education Cannot Wait is taking such measures and we must scale up our support for this effort,” said Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of ECW’s High-Level Steering Group. 

The new funding will be delivered in partnership with national governments, UN agencies and civil society organisations in Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.

These First Emergency Response grants focus on refugee, internally displaced and host community children and youth - benefiting 461,706 girls and 405,886 boys. 68% of the children and youth targeted through the investments are refugees, with the rest being internally displaced and host community children and youth.

Teachers plea after Kenya school attacks

Many children in Kenya are missing out on school due to terrorist attacks

Kenya's government needs to find ways to get teachers back into schools that have been repeatedly targeted by the terrorist group Al-Shabaab, according to the International Crisis Group.

A series of attacks in the north-east of the country in the past 18 months has forced many schools to shut and authorities to withdraw most teachers - many of whom are Christians from other parts of Kenya.

A briefing from the International Crisis Group recommends the government should supply funds to hire local educators who are less likely to be targets while it works to restore security.

It adds: "Failing to restore education will hand Al-Shabaab greater chances of success at attracting youngsters from this long-marginalised region than the group enjoys at present."

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