Five things you need to know this week about global education

Yemen Destroyed School
Ahmed teaches in the remains of a damaged school in Yemen, like this one - hundreds of schools in the country have been devastated by the conflict (UNICEF / Madhok)

Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies, Teachers and learning

Meet the blind warzone teacher aged nine

Millions of TV viewers in the UK were moved this week by the inspiring story of a nine-year-old blind boy from war-torn Yemen who acts as a teacher to other children.

Ahmed steps in to take classes if teachers cannot make it to the bombed-out school in the city of Taiz. Hundreds of students turn up every day for lessons among the rubble – a result of the ongoing violence that has left more than 500,000 children out of school and one in five of the country’s schools damaged or destroyed.

“I teach the pupils what I studied already,” said Ahmed, who has been blind since birth. Reporter Orla Guerin told his amazing story on Monday’s prime-time BBC news show. 

She later explained how shocked she was to see the damaged school building, which has no ceilings or walls.

She added: “In the middle of that shell, sitting quietly and incredibly well behaved and engrossed in their studies, are hundreds of children. 

“Many teachers in Yemen have not received their government salaries for the past three years. So there are days when teachers don’t turn up.

“I looked in the door of one of the classes and there was Ahmed. I realised he was teaching. He dreams of being a teacher in the future.”

Kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls set free

News Roundup March 5 Zamfara Kidnapping

School attacks have become a way of life to many in Nigeria (UN Photo)

Two groups of students abducted in northern Nigeria – where schools have become targets for mass kidnappings for ransom –  have been freed by their kidnappers.

All 279 girls seized from a boarding school last week were released by gunmen in Zamfara state on Tuesday. That came just days after the freeing of 27 teenage boys taken from their school on February 17 in the state of Niger.

Zamfara governor Bello Matawalle said “repentant bandits” had helped to secure the release of the students from the Government Girls Science Secondary School in the town of Jangebe. Earlier reports said 317 girls were abducted but state officials said some had escaped into the bush.

Lawal Abdullahi, whose seven daughters were among those freed, said he would not be deterred from schooling his children. He added: “It’s a ploy to deny our girls … from getting the Western education in which we are far behind. We should not succumb to blackmail.”

Back to classrooms for Turkish children

News Roundup March 5 Coronavirus Turkey Schools Reopening

Some schools welcomed back students in class across Turkey (UNICEF)

Many children in Turkey returned to school this week, as preschools, primaries and grades 8 to 12 resumed partial in-person education. Malaysia also restarted classroom education for students of preschool to grade 2. Students in grades 3 to 6 will return next week, while middle schools will begin face-to-face teaching on April 4.

President Joe Biden called on US states to prioritise vaccinations for teachers to ensure children could return to school quickly and safely, saying every educator should get at least one shot by the end of March.

Data released this week by the UK’s Office for National Statistics said teachers are not at a higher risk of infection in their jobs than people in other professions. 

The Czech Republic, battling the world’s worst surge in Covid-19 infections, shut preschools and classes for first and second grade students. Others were already learning from home. Hungary has closed primary schools and nurseries until April 7.

Children lost a third of school year to pandemic

A year of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen children lose an average of 74 days of education each due to school closures and a lack of access to remote learning – more than a third of the standard global 190-day school year.

An estimated 112 billion days of education have been lost altogether, with the world’s poorest children disproportionately affected, according to a new report from Save the Children

Analysis of data for 194 countries and different regions shows that children in Latin America and the Caribbean, and South Asia, missed out on almost three times as much education as children in Western Europe. That broke down to an average of 110 days, compared with the Middle East (80 days), Sub-Saharan Africa (69), East Asia and the Pacific (47), Europe and Central Asia (45). In Western Europe only, it was 38 days.

Separate research by UNICEF shows that schools have been completely closed for almost an entire year for more than 168 million children. Its report revealed in-person classes in 14 countries – two-thirds of them in Latin America and the Caribbean – have been shut since March 2020.

Gender equality toolkit launched

News Roundup March 5 Gender Toolkit

In countries affected by conflict, girls are more than twice as likely to be out of school than those living elsewhere (ECW)

Three leading agencies have launched a new toolkit to support greater gender equality in education responses for children affected by emergencies.

Armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate-induced disasters, health emergencies and other crises increase the barriers to safe, quality education. In crises, adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable and face increased risks of sexual exploitation, gender-based violence, child marriage and early pregnancy. 

Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) and the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) have joined forces to develop the EiE-GenKit. It gives teachers and education staff the tools to transform girls’ futures.

“Education plays a key role in redefining gender norms in any situation – but especially in humanitarian situations, where a good education that is gender-transformative can break cycles of violence and promote tolerance and reconciliation,” said Antara Ganguli, Director of UNGEI.

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