November 06, 2020

Five things you need to know this week about global education

Face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying can often happen alongside each other

Photo credit: UN Photo

Our news roundup looks at the blight of bullying at school and how European countries are adapting education to a second wave of coronavirus.

The suffering of millions of children around the world was recognised yesterday by the first International Day against Violence and Bullying at School, including Cyberbullying.

A UN report showed that more than 30% of students have been victims of bullying - with devastating consequences on academic achievement, school dropout rates, and physical and mental health.

Cyberbullying is believed to have increased as the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in children and adolescents spending much more time online and learning from home.

"Bullying, which at times has been neglected, minimised or ignored, must be strongly condemned for what it is - a real blight on the world," said UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay.

"At a time when Covid-19 lockdowns, still in place in many countries, have resulted in bullying moving online, we must redouble our efforts. Cyberbullying may take place in a virtual world, but it has a very real impact on children’s health. Beyond the numbers, there are tragic stories, educations ruined and lives sometimes permanently ripped apart."

Theirworld's new online resource The Key has a section on Education and the LGBTQ+ Community. It says safe schools promote higher attendance rates for LGBTQ+ youth. More than one-third of gay youth have missed a day of school because they felt unsafe and nine out of 10 LGBT teenagers have been bullied in school.

UNESCO said almost one in three students has been bullied by their peers at school at least once in the last month and a similar proportion were affected by physical violence. 

School violence and bullying is mostly carried out by other students but sometimes also by teachers and other school staff. Corporal punishment is still allowed at schools in 67 countries.

New virus wave closes schools

Europe's latest wave of coronavirus could lead to the closure of many schools

Photo credit: UNICEF

Many European countries have changed how they deliver education as they struggle to deal with a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lithuania has closed all schools as part of a three-week lockdown, while the Netherlands is considering school shutdowns. Romania will close all schools for 30 days from Monday and Denmark will shut classes to most students in the north of the country.

All of Poland's schools will work remotely, Italy's high schools went online yesterday until December 3 and Austrian secondary schools will switch to distance learning. Moscow's secondary school children, who started remote learning three weeks ago, will continue to do so for another two weeks.

In Israel, elementary students returned to school as a second nationwide lockdown comes to a gradual end. Older students are still learning from home.

Blind students struggle with social distancing

Social distancing is near-impossible for many blind and partially-sighted people

Photo credit: UNICEF

Kenyan students Purity Nduku and Blessing Cheroo, who go to a boarding school for blind and partially blind children near Nairobi, often walk holding hands. That way "you are sure you have the support and if something happens, your friend will help," says Nduku.

This makes it very difficult to comply with the government requirement for people to keep 1.5 metres from others as part of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Kenya began partially reopening its schools last month after a seven-month shutdown. Kiambu county education director Victoria Mulili said visually-impaired students are not exempted from government safety measures. She admitted: "It is not easy, especially for children who need to be guided around."

Children with a sensory, physical or intellectual disability are 2.5 times more likely to have never been in school than their peers without disabilities. This fact features in the Inclusion and Disability section of Theirworld's advocacy toolkit The Key.

Teachers abducted from Cameroon schools

Unrest in parts of Cameroon has affected school enrolment and access to education

Photo credit: HRW

Eleven teachers were kidnapped from two schools in western Cameroon, where separatist insurgents are battling government forces. The attacks in Kumbo came 10 days after gunmen stormed a school in another western town, killing at least seven children. 

"They carted away a total of 11 teachers and dispersed the children to go home unhurt," the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon said in a statement about Tuesday's kidnapping. The church said the teachers were all freed yesterday.  

In Afghanistan, at least 35 people - most of them students - were killed in an attack by gunmen on Kabul University. At least 50 more people were wounded. It came just a week after a suicide bomber killed 24 people including teenage students at a Kabul education centre.

In Peshawar, Pakistan, more than 130 people - mainly adult students - were wounded in a bombing at a religious school on Tuesday. 

Seven Pacific countries join GPE

The Global Partnership for Education helps some of the world's poorest countries

Photo credit: GPE

Seven new countries from the Pacific region have joined the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) following the endorsement of their education sector plans. This takes the number of GPE partner countries to 76.

Six of them - Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu - join GPE under a regional education framework called the Pacific Regional Education Framework 2018-2030.

The 12-year strategy promotes equitable access to high quality education by all Pacific Islanders, while encouraging inclusivity and opportunities for equal access to education and training.

The six countries plus Micronesia have all benefited from GPE’s Covid-19 emergency support. They can use the funding to develop materials for remote learning through various platforms, train teachers in best practices for distance learning, provide psychosocial support to students and ensure proper sanitary practices are in place when schools reopen.

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