UNICEF scales up support for education as COVID-19 shutters schools worldwide

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 31 2020 05:24 PM

An empty classroom at Nettlefield Primary School in Belfast, Northern Ireland as majority of schools close in the UK while the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, March 20, 2020. Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Monday it would allocate additional funding to help governments support the education of children affected by school closures due to the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In a statement, UNICEF Global Chief of Education Robert Jenkins said children are among those who are most vulnerable in the ongoing crisis as schools are forced shut because of the pandemic, raising the likelihood students would drop out.

“Schools in the majority of countries worldwide have closed. It is an unprecedented situation and unless we collectively act now to protect children’s education, societies and economies will feel the burden long after we’ve beaten COVID-19. In the most vulnerable communities, the impact will span generations,” he said.

He also said that lessons learned from the response to Ebola showed that children are less likely to return to school.

"Based on lessons learned with the school closures in response to Ebola, the longer children stay away from school, the less likely they are to ever return. Giving children alternative ways to learn and also by doing so, rebuild a routine is a critical part of our response,” said Jenkins.

To help stop the disruption to children's education, UNICEF said it is allotting an additional global allocation of $13 million to support 145 low and middle income countries.

Of this amount, nearly $9 million was from a contribution made by the Global Partnership for Education.

The funds will be used to enable countries to prepare alternative learning programs for their students, as well as to provide vital information on handwashing and other hygiene practices.