Education disruption poses global challenge - GulfToday

Education disruption poses global challenge

school education 3

Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Following the release of a UN study that shows at least 40 million children have missed out on early childhood education due to measures to combat COVID-19, the head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Henrietta Fore, has warned that the pandemic is making a global childcare crisis even worse, and she is absolutely correct.

The pandemic situation has worsened the plight of children everywhere. At a time when they are supposed to be in their classrooms listening attentively to their teachers or merrily playing in the gardens, children have been forced by the pandemic to be confined in their home rooms, with mobile phones and laptops as the best company.   

The shutdowns have also left many parents struggling to balance childcare and paid employment, a situation that is placing a larger burden on women who, on average, spend more than three times longer on care and housework than men.

In poorer countries, the closures have made life even harder for many families with young children, for whom schools are an essential provider of a range of services, including nutrition, stimulation and the development of social, emotional and cognitive skills.

The study shows that, in 54 low- and middle-income countries with recent data, around 40 per cent of children aged between three and five, were not receiving social-emotional and cognitive stimulation from any adult in their household.

Sadly, the only option for millions of parents, particularly women working in the informal sector, who have no form of social protection available to them, is to bring their young children to work: more than 90 per cent of women in Africa, and almost 70 per cent in Asia and the Pacific, work in this sector.

Education disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is preventing children from getting their education off to the best possible start, as Fore points out. Childcare and early childhood education builds a foundation upon which every aspect of children’s development relies. The pandemic is putting that foundation under serious threat.

The UAE, on its part, has been doing its best to ensure best care for children.

For example, the Community Development Authority (CDA) in Dubai, in cooperation with the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Ministry of Education, recently launched a new initiative called ‘Safe Summer,’ a creative, virtual campaign that looks to target children, parents and the youth and make them more aware about the importance of child safety and protection, especially from physical and psychological harm.

The campaign uses a selection of booklets, short stories, virtual activities and specially developed games to help educate children about their safety and protection while also keeping them entertained during the summer vacation.

In the words of Ayesha Ahmad Al Marri, Director of Studies & International Cooperation-Human Rights Sector, at CDA said, “Being asked to stay at home and the growing preference towards distance learning have prompted us to seek alternative solutions that can best suit our target audience — while also making sure that preventive measures like social distancing are properly observed and followed. Children remain the most affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as they are urged to stay indoors — not being allowed to play outdoors and interact with friends.

We understand the psychological impact that these orders have made on children today and we remain fully committed in coming up with strategic solutions that can keep them pre-occupied and entertained.”

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