The first day at school for 140 million young children has been delayed "indefinitely" - but LEGO Foundation aid will help others in Haiti and Afghanistan.
140m still waiting for their first day at school
About 140 million young children have had their first day at school "indefinitely postponed" due to the pandemic. They include eight million who have been waiting more than a year for their schools to open.
The grim statistic was revealed in new analysis released by UNICEF as the summer break ends in many parts of the world.
"The first day of school is a landmark moment in a child's life - setting them off on a life-changing path of personal learning and growth. But for millions of children, that important day has been indefinitely postponed," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
"As classes resume in many parts of the world, millions of first graders have been waiting to see the inside of a classroom for over a year. Millions more may not see one at all this school term. For the most vulnerable, their risk of never stepping into a classroom in their lifetime is skyrocketing."
School closures are particularly difficult for young learners, with first grade providing the building blocks for future education. It's also crucial for developing skills and relationships.
UNICEF has joined forces with UNESCO and the World Bank to launch Mission Recovery Education 2021, which focuses on:
- Targeted programmes to bring all children and youth back to school
- Effective remedial learning to help students catch up on lost learning
- Support for teachers to address learning losses and incorporate digital technology
LEGO aid for children in Haiti and Afghanistan
Children caught up in the escalating humanitarian crises in Afghanistan and Haiti will receive emergency educational aid thanks to new funding from the LEGO Foundation and KIRKBI, owners of the LEGO Group.
The additional $5 million will help Education Cannot Wait (ECW) - the global fund for education in emergencies - ensure children have access to safe learning spaces, mental health and psychosocial support, early childhood education and school meals.
LEGO Foundation CEO John Goodwin said: "Through our continued support for Education Cannot Wait, we are working to ensure the most vulnerable young children are able to learn, play, grow and thrive."
The foundation is ECW's largest private sector donor, having committed a total of $32.5 million.
Gardening classes for Rohingya children
Rohingya children and youth living in refugee camps in Bangladesh are getting lessons on micro-gardening as part of life skills education programmes.
They learn about plants and how to grow them - then receive kits of vegetable seeds, fertiliser and other equipment to allow them to start their own gardens. This year, 3,600 young people aged 10 to 19 have benefited and many are now producing vegetables for their families.
The micro-gardening session are integrated into life skills education programmes run by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Plan International Bangladesh. They aim to enhance the skills and resilience of young people through sessions on gender, gardening and SRHR (sexual and reproductive health and rights).
Jahur, 18, said: "I can now provide fresh vegetables for my family to feed ourselves. Where I live there are many adolescents and we have all been working hard on our gardens."
India races to vaccinate 10m teachers
India is aiming to vaccinate all school teachers by early next month, as face-to-face classes gradually resume. Hundreds of millions of students have been stuck at home for months, with the majority having little or no access to online education.
India last week approved its first Covid-19 vaccine for older children and is trying to immunise almost 10 million school teachers. The government will supply 20 million additional vaccine doses to states.
"We have requested all states to try to vaccinate all school teachers before Teachers' Day, which is celebrated on September 5," said Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya.
Gujarat state said physical classes will resume for middle school students from September 2, at half capacity, for the first time in more than 18 months. Schools reopened for older children nearly a month ago.
Families pay ransoms for kidnapped students
More than 15 students who were kidnapped from a school in northwest Nigeria have been freed after parents paid a ransom to bandits.
They were among more than 100 children taken from Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna state. Their abductors have already released 56 students.
More than 1,000 children have been kidnapped since December and Nigerian families are selling their homes and land to pay ransoms. Abubakar Adam, who had seven of his children taken, cleared out his savings and said: "I don't have anything left."
Tragically, six of the 136 students kidnapped from an Islamic school in the Nigerian state of Niger have died of illness, according to the school principal. Parents yesterday said others had been freed but those reports were still unconfirmed.