Global school closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic present an unprecedented risk to children’s education, protection and wellbeing. The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recently called on governments and donors to prioritize education for all children, including the most marginalized, and the Global Education Coalition was established to support governments in strengthening distance learning and facilitating the reopening of schools.
While we do not yet have enough evidence to measure the effect of school closures on the risk of disease transmission, the adverse effects of school closures on children’s safety, wellbeing and learning are well documented. Interrupting education services also has serious, long-term consequences for economies and societies such as increased inequality, poorer health outcomes, and reduced social cohesion. In many countries, data on virus prevalence is incomplete and decision makers will need to make their best assessments in a context of incomplete information and uncertainty. National governments and partners must simultaneously work to promote and safeguard every child’s right to education, health and safety, as set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The best interest of the child must be paramount.
Across countries leaders are grappling with difficult and uncertain trade-offs as they consider easing lockdowns. This framework serves to inform the decision-making process on when to reopen schools, support national preparations and guide the implementation process, as part of the overall public health and education planning processes. Contextualization and continuous adaptation are necessary in order to respond to local conditions and meet each child’s learning, health and safety needs.
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