May 22, 2020

Five things you need to know this week about global education

A fall in coronavirus cases means schools are now gradually reopening

Photo credit: UN Photo

The effects of coronavirus continue to dominate our news roundup - from safety measures in classes to high-energy biscuits replacing lost school meals.

More children head back to school

More countries reopened schools - or announced plans to - this week after shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But in South Korea 75 high schools were forced to turn students away on the first day back when two seniors in Incheon tested positive for Covid-19.

Most of South Korea's 2,356 high schools reopened under new health protocols to prevent the spread of the disease and all schools will reopen in stages by June 1. If any student tests positive, the entire school will switch to online classes for at least two weeks.

In Belgium - one of Europe's worst-hit countries - primary and secondary schools restarted smaller classes of final-year pupils under strict social distancing rules and with many students wearing masks.

South Africa will resume classes for grade 7 and 12 pupils on June 1 after a nationwide school closure of more than two months. Under strict social distancing rules, other grades will be able to attend lessons in smaller schools with fewer than 150 pupils.

Slovakia will reopen kindergartens and the first five grades of elementary schools from June 1. About 800,000 children in Australia's most populated state, New South Wales, will return to school full-time next week.

Some primary schools in England are preparing to reopen from June 1. But Scotland's government said schools will reopen in August, with children at first spending half their time learning at home and half at school in smaller classes.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said schools will not re-open until the new academic year in September. The country is the world's largest host of refugees and hundreds of thousands of Syrian children are in Turkey's public schools as part of a three-year plan to transition every refugee into education.

In the United States, guidelines this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there should a carefully phased reopening of schools only after public health benchmarks are met.

Crisis puts 4m girls at risk of child marriage

Coronavirus could put girls at risk of early and forced marriage

Photo credit: UNICEF / Schermbrucke

Four million girls are at risk of child marriage in the next two years because of the coronavirus crisis, the global charity World Vision has warned. It said deepening poverty caused by the loss of livelihoods is likely to drive many families to marry off their daughters early.

"If we don't start thinking about how to prevent it now it will be too late. We can't wait for the health crisis to pass first," said World Vision child marriage expert Erica Hall.

Campaigners say the risks are greater because so many schools are closed around the world and organisations working to combat child marriage are finding it harder to operate during lockdowns.

In northern Ethiopia, more than 500 girls have been rescued from child marriage since schools were shut, a regional official said. Fears are growing in the country that the pandemic is reversing years of work to stop underage marriages.

Aid for disadvantaged children to keep learning

More than 30 million children affected by coronavirus-related school closures in Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Zambia will be helped by $60 million in grants from the Global Partnership for Education.

The funds will ensure that remote learning reaches the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children - including girls, those with special needs and disabilities, and students without access to electricity or internet connectivity.

"Even short disruptions in learning can have a devastating impact, especially for girls and the most marginalised," said CEO Alice Albright. "GPE's COVID-19 education grants will help our partner countries ensure that all girls and boys can keep learning through distance education options that reach everyone, and support teachers and schools so that the most vulnerable children are not left behind."

Another $7.5 million from GPE will be used to ensure countries can benefit from learning and best practices.

High-energy biscuits delivered to 3m children

The high-energy biscuits are rich in vitamins and nutrients that are essential for growth and development

Photo credit: WFP / Akash

With schools closed, almost three million children in Bangladesh have been missing out on school meals. For many of them, it was their only meal of the day.

Now high-energy biscuits are being delivered to the homes of children from 15,200 primary schools. The biscuits are rich in vitamins and nutrients that are essential for growth and development.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is working with Bangladesh's education ministry to distribute the food. 

“In this challenging time, it is imperative to ensure that school children and their families continue to receive support that addresses their food and nutritional needs,” said Richard Ragan, WFP Country Director.

Theirworld's Infinity Classroom wins design award

The Infinity Classroom installation for Theirworld's #WriteTheWrong campaign has won a major design award. 

The mirrored room, which was sited on the main UN Plaza in New York during last year's United Nations General Assembly, was filled with what appeared to be endless rows of empty school desks - representing the 260 million children out of school at the time. 

The Infinity Classroom was the centrepiece of the #WriteTheWrong campaign to build mass awareness of the education crisis. It was visited by many world leaders and influencers.

The immersive experience was developed for Theirworld by the creative advertising agency BBDO MPLS from Minneapolis. It received a Gold Cube in the Spacial Design category of the ADC Annual Awards.

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