School closures have created a shadow crisis for children. Beyond falling behind on their education, many children are missing out on: experiencing social isolation and increased anxiety, and being exposed to abuse and violence.
For some, school closures have led to drop out, child labour and child marriage. Many parents have been unable to continue with their employment while balancing their children’s care and learning needs.
Prolonged school closure = unrecoverable learning losses + child labor + teenage pregnancy + child marriage + disruption of routine & normal life for children & parents + mental distress for children & parents.
End result: loss of human capital, violence, under development. pic.twitter.com/lvUrTWVuyO
— Munir Safieldin, Ph.D. (@Munir_Safieldin) September 15, 2021
Some have lost their jobs entirely, pushing their families into poverty and creating a deeper economic crisis.
While remote learning has been a lifeline for some schoolchildren, access to the technology and the quality of the curriculum have been uneven even within communities and school districts.
Experience shows that schools are not the main drivers of transmission and that it is possible to keep them open for in-person learning. UNICEF urges governments, local authorities and school administrations to reopen schools as soon as possible and take all possible steps to mitigate against transmission of the virus in schools, such as:
• Implementing mask policies for students and staff in accordance with national and local guidelines;
• Providing handwashing facilities and/or hand sanitiser;
• Frequently cleaning of surfaces and shared objects;
• Ensuring adequate and appropriate ventilation;
• Cohorting (keeping students and teachers in small groups that do not mix); staggering start, break, bathroom, meals and end time; and alternating physical presence;
• Establishing information sharing mechanisms with parents, students and teachers;
• While not a prerequisite to reopen schools, teachers should be prioritised to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, after frontline health workers and those most at risk, to help protect them from community transmission.
To support these efforts, UNICEF contributed to a multi-agency Framework for School Reopening to provide practical and flexible advice for national and local governments and aid their efforts to return students to in-person learning.
“The education crisis is still here, and with each passing day that classrooms remain dark, the devastation worsens,” said Fore. “This is a crisis we will not allow the world to ignore. Our channels are silent, but our message is loud: Every community, everywhere must reopen schools as soon as possible. Schools must be the last to close and the first to reopen. We have to start putting the best interest of every child first. In all but the most extreme cases, this means getting students back into the classroom.”
‘Some of us still don't have the resources for online learning that can help us be in contact with our teachers and we miss out whenever schools close,' says Shoeshoe Moroeng,12, from Lesotho, where schools have re-opened on double shifts after being closed due to #COVID19. pic.twitter.com/DbzgvZ2oeK
— Mohamed M. M. Fall (@MohamedFall) September 15, 2021