The scale of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education systems and on children and young people’s learning and wellbeing is increasing daily. This truly is a global crisis which is preventing children and adolescents in every country, including those affected by conflict and displacement, from fulfilling their right to quality, safe and inclusive education. With Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4), the global community committed to realising the right to quality education for all children and adolescents by 2030. The COVID-19 crisis puts this promise into jeopardy more than ever before.
As of early April, most countries have introduced nation-wide early childhood care, school and university closures affecting nearly 91% of the world’s student population – more than 1.5 billion learners.
Governments and donors, in collaboration with national and international partners must urgently ensure safe, inclusive access to emergency distance learning, with psychosocial support and social emotional learning components during and after the COVID-19 crisis. This can be done by supporting governments to plan and develop flexible national education systems, to give teachers and caregivers the right support to deliver distance learning and by maintaining and increasing international funding to countries most in need. Additional support will be required in contexts already affected by conflict and displacement and environmental emergencies to help ensure the most vulnerable children are not left further behind.
Quality education can provide a sense of predictability and routine for children, and can help to provide a safe, protective and nurturing environment for them to learn and develop. In emergencies, education can be lifesaving and life sustaining. During the COVID-19 response, it can play a critical role in protecting public health, keeping children safe, ensuring continuity of learning and promoting mental health and psychosocial wellbeing.
This brief highlights some of the potential impacts of school closures on children, with a focus on the most marginalised, including those already living in crisis and conflict contexts. It provides recommendations for governments and donors, together with partners, to ensure that safe, quality and inclusive learning reaches all children and that education systems are strengthened ready for the return to school.
A comprehensive curation of free and accessible resources to support the response during the COVID-19 is available on INEE’s website.