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Safeguarding learning opportunities for children and youth worldwide – Both now and in the future

News and Press Release
Originally published


War Child Holland supports UN International Day of Education through efforts to ensure learning recovery and sustainable education access for the COVID-19 generation.

UNESCO’s third International Day of Education (January 24) will be marked on Monday 25 January 2021 under the theme ‘Recover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation’. The day will promote international efforts to place education and lifelong learning opportunities at the centre of the COVID-19 recovery - both now and in the future.

Education: A basis for recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the largest disruption of education systems in history - affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries. Existing learning inequalities have worsened as access to education has shrunk with schools closing their doors. And the world’s 160 million children living with the effects of violence have been among the hardest hit - threatening the future prospects of an entire generation.

"We will eventually reach a point where children can no longer make up for their loss of learning. This will have major consequences for their development and their future," says War Child Holland managing director Tjipke Bergsma.

Education is the fundamental right of every child. It provides children with inspiration, hope and greater chances in the future. Evidence has also shown that it has a positive impact on children’s psychosocial wellbeing. Efforts to safeguard access to quality education could potentially also boost the world’s ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic - if backed with action and investment to ensure lifelong learning opportunities.

Innovations rolled out to meet children’s learning needs during the pandemic provide a path for achieving these improved outcomes. Enabling us to continue and better deliver high quality education in an inclusive and equitable way. Adopting an approach that fosters lifelong learning and builds a better and more sustainable future .

Creating learning innovations for a better future

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, War Child Holland has maximised efforts to reach children with quality learning opportunities at a distance, to help them continue learning despite school closures. Some key examples are: In Colombia, War Child’s Peace Education programme moved onto the radio. In Lebanon, teachers struggling with stress and anxiety from all the changes were supported with wellbeing sessions. And in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), children received printed home learning packs, allowing them to learn despite a lack of access to electricity or internet.

Can’t Wait to Learn (CWTL) - the innovative digital education programme led by War Child Holland - has developed several remote learning innovations as part of its COVID-19 emergency response. The effective & low-cost digital gamified learning solution is usually delivered by teachers and learning facilitators in groups via digital tablets. But if children can’t go to school it is vital that we bring learning opportunities to their homes and settlements.

That’s why, in response to COVID-19, the learning content and delivery modalities were adapted to home-based learning. A phased and contextualized intervention approach was carried out, consisting of a number of ‘technical adaptations’ to implement the programme.

For example, in Uganda additional digital tablets were provided or shared amongst students so they could learn from home. Plus teachers were prepared for remote learning and maintenance was set up at a distance.

In Lebanon, a downloadable distance teacher and learning package was created, accessible via a website link, USB stick or SD card. Exercise books were also provided to complement digital content and teachers were trained for home-based learning. Hygiene, safety and mental health support materials were also included. Since June 2020, there has been more than 14,000 unique visits on the web link and with the support of local partners, a total of 9769 children are currently continuing their education via this distant learning innovation. Children and communities affected by the recent Beirut Blast have also had access to the content and the opportunity to continue to learn. Watch the video.

Responding to COVID-19 has highlighted a number of key learnings. A very vigilant and agile approach was required to response effectively to the constant changing contexts during the pandemic. Understanding the specific educational needs and country circumstances, enabled the programme to adapt its delivery modalities accordingly. These learnings have also informed the future preparedness of the programme, one that is flexible, durable and scalable. Ensuring that children affected by conflict (and/or future emergencies) are provided quality and equitable education and given a chance to build a better future.

The road to recovery

Global humanitarian bodies like War Child Holland are now calling for more such actions to safeguard safe, high quality and inclusive learning opportunities for all children. With schools closed, they urge, learning must continue. Governments, donors and partners must support schools and teachers to develop emergency distance-learning materials and activities that are accessible to all children - particularly the most marginalised. Physical, mental health and psychosocial support must be fully integrated into educational response and school closures should not further worsen existing educational inequalities.

Children and youth affected by conflict and crisis also urgently need quality education that can play a critical role in mitigating the harmful impact of crises on their wellbeing and support their recovery. Teachers and parents must also be supported in the process and government health authorities must decide when schools can reopen safely in line with recommended actions. And funding needs to be made available for more such initiatives, and to continue investing in the use of technology (where most effective and equitable) for quality education in emergency situations.