July 26, 2019

Five things you need to know this week about global education

4.5 million schoolbags and 84,000 education kits to help children get an education were delivered by UNICEF during 2018

Photo credit: UNICEF / Haldar

Our news roundup features schools occupied by gunmen in Cameroon, millions of schoolbags delivered and getting students prepared for disasters.

Gunmen occupy 50 schools in Cameroon

More than 50 schools in Cameroon are being occupied by armed separatists and 48 others have been destroyed.

The admission from an education chief comes just a month after children were urged to return to school in the country's troubled English-speaking north and southwest regions. 80% of schools there have been closed since separatists began their uprising in 2017. 

The schools occupied by gunmen are being used for training and to hide from the military, according to a report by the Voice of America

"We have about 48 schools that have been destroyed in our system and another 53 schools that are occupied," Cameroon’s basic education chief for the northwest region, Wilfred Wambeng Ndong, told reporters.  

A government bilingual high school in South West Cameroon

Photo credit: VOA

He said school attendance in the region has dropped from 422,000 in 2017 to 5,500 this year. Ndong added that the whereabouts of more than 3,00 teachers is unknown - but that most had probably escaped to safer areas or are in hiding. The government says at least 130 schools have been burned by separatist fighters.

Schools are meant to be safe spaces for children to learn and feel protected. But Theirworld's report Safe Schools: The Hidden Crisis revealed that between 2013 and 2017 there were more than 12,700 attacks on schools, harming more than 21,000 students and educators in at least 70 countries.

89 countries have signed up to the Safe Schools Declaration - a commitment to safeguard education from violence - and many are clamping down on the military use of schools. 

Emergency move to help 187,000 children in conflict region

Responding to the Sahel region crises that have affected over 2.3 million children in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, the Education Cannot Wait fund (ECW) has announced a move to help 187,000 children and youth.

At least 1.5 million children need education assistance, including more than 460,000 forced to drop out of school. Hundreds of schools are closed due to insecurity and violence and teaching personnel have been attacked and threatened.

ECW - the fund for education in emergencies - will give $6million in grants to address the urgent needs

“Children in the Sahel are among the most vulnerable in the world," said ECW Director Yasmine Sherif. "We must act now to respond to the education crises in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to ensure every child has the opportunity to learn and thrive in a safe and protective learning environment.

“For these girls and boys living with the uncertainty, fear and insecurity of violence, drought and hunger, access to quality education is a beacon of hope.” 

UNICEF gives kids 4.5m schoolbags

Elementary school students receive donations from UNICEF in Indonesia

Photo credit: UNICEF

UNICEF handed out 4.5 million schoolbags and 84,000 education kits to help children get an education during 2018. That was part of the $3.486 billion worth of goods and services that the UN agency delivered for children in 150 countries live better lives.

UNICEF’s iconic blue school backpack gives kids all the space they need to carry books, food and personal items. The School-in-a-box contains a range of essential school supplies for a teacher and 40 children, who each get a notebook, slate, pen and pencil. The inside lid of the box can be used as a blackboard.

UNICEF'S Supply Annual Report 2018 also tells how schools in the Cote d'Ivoire are being built from bricks of recycled plastic. What began as a pilot project to construct 30 classrooms is now being scaled up across the country.

“The support of governments, businesses, donors and our partners on the ground has been invaluable in allowing us to reach millions of children as quickly as possible”, said Etleva Kadilli, Director of UNICEF’s Supply Division in Copenhagen.

Filipino children 'must be disaster-ready'

Children attend a seminar by Save the Children to learn what to do during an earthquake

Photo credit: Save the Children

Save the Children Philippines has called for disaster preparedness in schools and communities to be strengthened because children face the highest risks of death, injury and disease in emergencies.

CEO Albert Muyot said local governments should invest in building the resilience of children as part of climate change strategy. 

"Disasters such as earthquakes, massive flooding and severe typhoons take a heavy toll on children's lives, particularly those in deprived and marginalised situations," he said.

More than 11 million school children in the Philippines were affected by major disasters from 2007 to 2012. It ranks third on the list of the 171 disaster-prone countries, behind only the island nations of Vanuatu and Tonga, according to the World Risk Report of 2018.

Pakistan plans to make religious schools more mainstream

The government of Pakistan has decided that madrasas will be mainstreamed

Photo credit: Diaa Hadid

Pakistan is aiming to bring madrasas - the country's religious schools - closer into line with conventional schools and curb extremist teaching, its education minister has said.

The plan is the latest effort to address concerns that about 30,000 madrasas use a rigid curriculum based around religious studies that fails to prepare students for employment.

Under the plan, agreed with the madrasa umbrella organisation Wafaq-ul-madaris, religious schools would be registered and helped to strengthen conventional teaching in subjects like English, science and mathematics.

They would remain responsible for religious teaching. But education minister Shafqat Mahmood said: "There will be no preaching of hate speech of any kind against any religion or sect." The schools would remain independent of government control, he added.

We are a global children's charity committed to ending the global education crisis and unleashing the potential of the next generation.

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