May 14, 2021

Five things you need to know this week about global education

Theirworld President Justin van Fleet meets refugee children during a trip to the Greek islands. This week he talked to UNICEF's representative in the country about the education crisis there (see video below)

Photo credit: Theirworld

The cost of getting every refugee child into school in Greece - and the courage of schoolgirls in the wake of a deadly attack in Afghanistan.

Girls vow to go back after deadly school attack

An Afghan girl whose sister was killed in the deadliest attack on a school in years has said she is determined to return to the classroom. 

At least 680 people - the majority of them schoolgirls - died in a bomb attack in the Afghan capital Kabul. Many more were injured.

Farzanah Asghari, 18, lost her 15-year-old sister when a car bomb was detonated in front of the Sayed Al-Shuhada high school and two more bombs exploded when students rushed out in panic.

She said: "I'll go again and again. Even if there is another attack, I'll go again." Another student, 17-year-old Masooma, narrowly missed the blast. She said: "I am scared. It will be difficult to return. But I will."

The deadly bombing happened outside a high school in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan

Photo credit: UNAMA / Freshta Dunia

Theirworld Chair Sarah Brown said it was a "devastating attack that the world will condemn". She added: "We need safe schools more than ever." Theirworld has campaigned for many years for schools and students to be protected against attacks.

Theirworld President Justin van Fleet said: "Our thoughts are with the many families impacted by the  heinous school bombing in Afghanistan. Every girl has the right to a safe school. Attacks on schoolchildren must be fully condemned."

President Ashraf Ghani blamed Taliban insurgents but a spokesman for the group denied involvement and condemned any attacks on Afghan civilians. It was the deadliest attack on a school since 149 died in the Peshawar school massacre in Pakistan in 2014.

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they banned girls from attending school. There are now more than 3.5 million girls in school.

How to get every refugee child into Greek schools

The cost of getting all 33,000 refugee and migrant children in Greece into public schools is just one euro per child per day. The figure - equivalent to 34 million euros ($41 million) over three years - was revealed by Luciano Calestini, UNICEF Representative in Greece, in a video conversation with Theirworld President Justin van Fleet.

He said a report by Theirworld had been used in the formulation of a plan to get all children into school, which he hoped will be agreed with the education ministry "within days".

The pair discussed Theirworld's support on the Greek islands, which has helped thousands of children to access education.

Luciano said: "These children are not nameless and faceless - they are individuals who have every hope for a prosperous and stable and safe future. They have a right to it."

New education hub - but still cuts in aid

The UK has announced £55 million ($77 million) of funding for the new What Works Hub for Global Education, which will advise governments across Africa and Asia on the most impactful and cost-effective ways to reform school systems and support female enrolment.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also launched a Girls’ Education Action Plan, setting out the steps needed to help meet the UK’s targets to get 40 million more girls into school and 20 million more girls reading by the age of 10 by 2026.

In a tweet (see above), Theirworld again questioned why the UK is backing girls' education but cutting funding to global education by 40%. The UK is under fire for slashing its foreign aid budget.

Theirworld recently launched the Education Finance Playbook- a practical guide for governments, donors and philanthropists to fund quality, inclusive education for all by 2030. 

US schools unlikely to mandate vaccines soon

The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine have been approved for children as young as 12

Photo credit: Matt Napo

The Covid-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer and BioNTech were authorised for use in children as young as 12 by the US Food and Drug Administration this week.

But it is not expected that schools will require shots for students anytime soon, given public hesitation and political hurdles. 

In all but a handful of states, the state lawmakers would have to agree to add it to the mandatory vaccine list, said Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a  law professor who researches school mandates and the legal issues around vaccines. She thinks it is highly unlikely that mandatory jabs for children will be pushed through this school year.

Polling of parents by the American Federation of Teachers shows that vaccines - along with social distancing, masking and testing - are crucial in making them confident enough to send children back to school.

Pandemic means more child labourers in Venezuela

The pandemic has aggravated the risk factors for child labour in Venezuela

Photo credit: ECW

Coronavirus quarantine measures have increased the number of child workers in Venezuela, according to child protection activists. The problem has also been fuelled by the economic crisis and mass migration that turned many children into breadwinners for their families.

The work - which often prevents children from attending school or dropping out altogether - ranges from toiling in garbage dumps to agricultural fields. Children are also at greater risk of being recruited by gangs.

A survey by World Vision revealed that during the pandemic more children are doing housework for other families in exchange for money or food. Others are begging and selling products such as water or cigarettes in the streets.

The UN predicted last year the Covid-19 crisis could push more than 300,000 Latin American children and adolescents into the workforce, adding to the 10.5 million who are already part of it.

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