COVID-19 has Potential to Threaten Right to Education – UNESCO

COVID-19 has Potential to Threaten Right to Education – UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has described the impact on education from the spread of COVID-19 as ‘without precedent’. In a bid to halt the spread of the Coronavirus, the closure of schools in 13 countries across the globe is disrupting the education of over 290 million students.

As of March 5th, Italy is the only country in the EU that has implemented nationwide school closures. The closure of all schools and universities in the country for 10 days until March 15th, is impacting over nine million students. Italy continues to be the most seriously impacted of the EU countries with 107 reported deaths from the virus.

In addition to closing schools, cinemas, theatres and museums across the country are to be closed, while matches in the countries football league will be played in empty stadiums. Cases of the Coronavirus have now been reported in 19 of Italy’s 20 regions.

A further nine countries have announced or implemented localised school closures including France and Germany. In a bid to combat the effect of the closures, UNESCO is providing immediate support including solutions for distance learning.

Commenting on the situation, Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General said, ‘We are working with countries to assure the continuity of learning for all, especially disadvantaged children and youth who tend to be the hardest hit by school closures.’

Ms. Azoulay said, ‘While temporary school closures as a result of health and other crises are not new unfortunately, the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education.’

UNESCO will convene an emergency meeting of education ministers on 10 March to share responses and strategies to maintain the continuity of learning and assure inclusion and equity.

In response to the situation, UNESCO is supporting the implementation of large-scale distance learning programmes and recommending open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers can use to reach learners remotely. The organization is sharing best practices to leverage inexpensive mobile technologies for teaching and learning purposes to mitigate educational disruption.

According to UNESCO, school closures not only have impacts on learning achievement but cause other, harder to measure losses.

It says other losses can include inconveniences to families and decreased economic productivity as parents struggle to balance work obligations with childcare. Closures also compound educational inequities: economically advantaged families tend to have higher levels of education and more resources to fill learning gaps and provide enrichment activities to children who cannot attend school.

(Image by Cal-America via pixabay.com)

 

Antoinette Tyrrell is a writer and journalist who started her career in print and broadcast journalism in Ireland. An English and History graduate of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, she worked for 11 years in corporate public relations for Irish Government bodies in the Foreign Direct Investment and Energy sectors.

She is the founder of GoWrite, a business writing and public relations consultancy. Her work has appeared in a range of national and international media and trade publications. She is also a traditionally published novelist of commercial fiction.

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